Rafa Benitez calls for United front at Newcastle – and backs the Magpies in Premier League survival battle

Former Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has called for a United front on Tyneside – and has backed his former charges to avoid Premier League relegation under Steve Bruce.

By Liam Kennedy
Tuesday, 13 August, 2019, 11:45

Benitez, now manager of Dalian Yifang, left St James’s Park this summer after three years at the club.

The Spaniard believes United have got the tools to remain in the top flight – and if the club’s new additions gel, a top 10 finish isn’t out of the question.

Speaking in his column with the Athletic, Benitez said: “Before their first game, I wished the players, fans and Steve Bruce all the best and I meant it sincerely, because they deserve it. Arsenal was their first match of the season and their first with a new manager, so we have to give them time.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Rafael Benitez, manager of Newcastle United, applauds the fans after the match during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on May 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

“The signings we made to take us from the Championship have more experience in the Premier League now. I think the combination of “our” young players, like Jamaal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden, DeAndre Yedlin and Javier Manquillo, the new squad members like Miguel Almiron and Sean Longstaff, together with the experience of Paul Dummett, Matt Ritchie, Martin Dubravka, Fabian Schar, Florian Lejeune, Federico Fernandez, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-yeung, Ciaran Clark, Karl Darlow and Christian Atsu will be enough to stay up.”

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Interestingly, Benitez does not mention last summer’s most expensive signing Yoshinori Muto in his analysis, nor returning striker Dwight Gayle – both of whom have been named in Bruce’s Premier League 25-man squad for the 2019/20 season.

And while Benitez has explained at length the reasons why he thinks United have what it takes to remain in the top flight on the field, he knows what impact the mood off it can have.

The Spaniard has called for a United front among the fanbase, following their boycott and protests at the weekend.

“The new players will have to make the difference if they want to finish better than 10th, but they will need — and they will have — support from the fans, even if they are not happy with how things have been done, because they know the club is bigger than anyone,” he said.

“They have to be United; Newcastle United.”