Newcastle United briefing: Rafa Benitez faces media, Mikel Merino update

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez faces the media this afternoon ahead of Newcastle United's visit to Old Trafford.

Benitez will renew his longstanding rivalry with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho tomorrow evening.

Newcastle's manager will give injury updates on a number of players, including Mikel Merino, Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu.

Meanwhile, forward Ayoze Perez has spoken about Benitez's decision to drop him against Bournemouth before the international break.

We have news of a possible return to the Premier League for Hatem Ben Arfa, while former United striker Michael Owen has spoken about Benitez and Mourinho.

Here's your daily briefing:

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

First steps

Merino missed Newcastle's defeats to Bournemouth and Burnley with a back problem.

The midfielder has been back in Spain during the two-week break.

Footage of Merino taking his first steps back on the training pitch have been posted on Twitter.

Mikel Merino

Mikel Merino

Meanwhile, Lascelles (ankle) and Atsu (thigh) have been assessed over the international break ahead of the Man United game.

Respect

Perez was left out of Benitez's Premier League team for the first time this season before the international break.

The 24-year-old's form had been under scrutiny ahead of the Bournemouth game.

Rafa Benitez (Pic: NUFC/Serena Taylor)

Rafa Benitez (Pic: NUFC/Serena Taylor)

And Perez has revealed his reaction to the decision.

“The manager didn’t really explain to me why I didn’t start,” said Perez.

“It was his decision, and obviously I respect it. “I was waiting for my chance, which I knew was going to be as a substitute once the team was announced, and I’m always keen to help the team in whichever way I can.

“The manager decided I wasn’t starting, but I’m always ready to come on or start when I’m needed.”

Cold

Owen rarely spoke during his time as a player at Newcastle.

However, Owen has more to say now he's a TV pundit.

And the 37-year-old has spoken about some of Benitez's "personality traits".

"There's no question that both Benitez and Mourinho are outstanding tacticians – two of the best in the business – but they also have personality traits that are hard to like,” Owen told Yahoo Sport.

“Benitez's a master at setting at team up that will be tough to break down, and Mourinho has shown time and again down the years that he knows how to take a sting out of a game as well, but you also hear a lot of stories that suggest the two men are also quite cold towards their players when they want to be."

Hat's off?

Is Ben Arfa set to return to the Premier League this month?

The midfielder has been frozen out at Paris Saint-Germain by manager Unai Emery.

And an English club has been linked with a January move for Ben Arfa, who left Newcastle in January 2015.