Newcastle United briefing: Rafa Benitez faces media ahead of Man United, Christian Atsu's heartfelt message

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez will face the media this afternoon ahead of Manchester United's visit to St James's Park.

Newcastle United take on Jose Mourinho's second-placed side on Sunday.

And Benitez will speak to journalists at 1.30pm ahead of the Premier League game.

Newcastle are 16th in the table and a point above the relegation zone.

Meanwhile, United winger Christian Atsu has given a heartfelt interview about the difference he hopes to make to the lives of impoverished and vulnerable children in his native Ghana.

Suffering

Christian Atsu

Christian Atsu

Atsu is hosting a gala dinner on Tyneside next month in aid of charity Arms Around the Child.

The 26-year-old, an ambassador to the charity, broke down talking about the "suffering" of children in Ghana and elsewhere.

"We have to build a better world," said Atsu. "As a grown-up guy like me, I can suffer. That’s fine. But not the kids. Not when it’s not their fault.”

Atsu added: "It’s hard to go back and see the country I left behind. You never forget the person you were before you left.

“I have friends there who knew me from the beginning. They know the start I had, they know the person I was.

“They keep telling me ‘you believed in God, and we’re pleased for you’. Every time when they call me, they say ‘you did everything to survive’. I have survived, but I don’t forget.

“I lived in an uncompleted building. Every time I go back to Ghana, I see the building I lived in. It’s still uncompleted.

“I say to my friends ‘this was me, this is where I came from’. It’s hard in Africa. You cannot imagine what it is like to see the kids with no money, no house, with nowhere to go.”

Read Atsu's full emotional interview here.

* Christian Atsu will host a gala dinner for Arms Around the Chiold at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on March 14. For tickets and information, go to theblackstargala.eventbrite.co.uk.

Wake-up call

Mohamed Diame’s return to form as been recognised by Newcastle United’s fans.

The midfielder – who scored in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace – has been voted the club’s player of the month for January.

Diame beat team-mates Jacob Murphy and Paul Dummett to the award.

The 30-year-old will be presented with the award before Sunday’s home game against Manchester United.

Diame – who retired from international football with Senegal in March to focus on his club career – struggled for form last season after joining from Hull City in the summer of 2016.

Speaking midway through the club’s Championship season, Diame said: “I need to wake up because I’ve been sleeping since I got here.

“To be honest, I’ve not played the football I have wanted to play since I’ve been here.

“The manager (Rafa Benitez) will always say he wants more from me, even if I’m playing well.

“He’s pushing me and telling me he wants more. All the good things will come if I keep working.

“I feel it was a long season last year.”