Mauricio Pellegrino has an “attitude” problem at Southampton.
“When you do not play a good game, you have to show you are on the pitch, even running, even fighting, even playing football, and do the best we can,” said Pellegrino after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United
“The worst thing was the attitude.”
Benitez has his problems at St James’s Park, but the attitude of his players isn’t one of them.
Southampton were awful, even abject, and what we saw doesn’t bode well for them between now and end of the season.
The opposite could be said for Newcastle, who are 13th in the Premier League with eight games left to play.
United, unlike in 2015-16 when they were relegated, can fight. They had to fight for 46 games in the Championship last season. They had to scrap and battle for everything in English football’s unforgiving second tier.
They took that fight into the Premier League.
What they lack is quality in a couple of key positions, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Newcastle went into the game needing a win.
They needed to start and end well, unlike against Bournemouth a fortnight earlier then they let two points slip through their grasp in the final 10 minutes.
Shelvey left the field at the Vitality Stadium knowing he should have put the game to bed.
The midfielder returned from injury against Southampton in a determined mood.
With a minute on the clock, he lofted a ball forward to Kenedy, who chested it down and beat Alex McCarthy with a shot on the turn.
Shelvey also played in Dwight Gayle, but his effort was saved.
United, having taken the lead, were content to play on the counter-attack. Southampton had a lot of the ball in the first half, but they were lethargic and lifeless.
And a mishit from Mario Lemina led to the move of the game from Newcastle.
Ayoze Perez took the ball and ran from deep in his own half to the visiting box before playing in Gayle, who rolled to the ball to Kenedy at the far post.
Ritchie put the game beyond Southampton in the 57th minute with a precise low shot from a Shelvey ball.
United comfortably saw the game out, and Shelvey and Kenedy were given standing ovations when they were taken off.
Newcastle needed a win – any kind of win – and they got a convincing one a day before Benitez celebrated the second anniversary of his tenure at the club.
It was a happy anniversary for Benitez, who, given the right backing, could make the club great again.
Elsewhere, West Ham United were beaten 3-0 at home by Burnley on an afternoon marred by crowd trouble at the London Stadium.
United, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool at Anfield a week earlier, are keeping their heads when all about them in the league are losing theirs.
Speaking after the game, Benitez said: “My point has always been the way to stay up is to remain calm until the end.
“You can lose against Liverpool, and people say ‘oh ,you are no good’, but you always have the next game.
“We’re confident in the system we play – and in each other.”
Newcastle, at most, are eight points away from Premier League survival. If United can maintain their form this year, the club will be a top-flight team next season.