Rafa Benitez has a pointed message for Newcastle fans after Rio Ferdinand comments

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United fans know better than Rio Ferdinand and Richard Keys – after the pundits took the side of Mike Ashley.

Benitez refused to get drawn into a war of words with Ferdinand and Keys ahead of tonight’s FA Cup replay against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

They have their own experience and can see what is going on, and, afterwards, they decide what they have to do.

Rafa Benitez

Keys had blamed Benitez – and not Ashley – for the team’s failings.

The TV presenter also, bizarrely, claimed that Benitez should buy some players himself.

Ferdinand, meanwhile, said that United fans should thank owner Ashley, his business partner, for what he has done for the club.

Asked about their comments, Benitez said: “Concentrate on the game, that’s it.”

Benitez, however, went on to say that the club’s fans have a greater understanding of what is going on at St James’s Park than Ferdinand and Keys.

“It’s like what I said before, and I am not just saying that because I want to send out a message that the fans are clever,” said Benitez, who had to sell to buy in the summer.

“They have experience over many years, and they know better than us.

“They have their own experience and can see what is going on, and, afterwards, they decide what they have to do. People outside, they will have their opinion, but normally when I talk about home, I talk with my wife and my children, because I know what is going on.”

Benitez believes some of the criticism aimed at him and his players can galvanise the fans and his squad ahead of a tough run of games.

“I think it’s always positive to realise what they think – someone outside,” said Benitez.

“Then you say ‘listen, they’re wrong’, and then the best way is you have to stick together.

“Our fans and the people in the city and the people here at the training ground, they know that for us to do well and to stay up, we have to keep working hard and stick together.”

Asked if there was a seige mentality developing at United, Benitez said: “Maybe – let’s hope so.

“When we were finishing 10th (last season), we were thinking ‘oh maybe now, we do not need that’, but we needed that mentality in the Championship, and we need it now. From day one until the end.”

Meanwhile, Benitez, mindful of Saturday’s Premier League home game against Cardiff City, will make a number of changes to his team for the cup tie.

“Depending on the players you have, you have to pick a team that in your opinion can win,” said Benitez.

“You prepare the game to win. You can’t play (Florian) Lejeune, because it’s a risk and if you have three or four injuries, you have to manage.

“The fans can see the squad and maybe some of them prefer to concentrate on Cardiff and some want to have a go in the FA Cup.”