Rafa Benitez didn’t stray far this summer. There was simply too much to do.
Benitez had some time off at his family home on the other side of the Pennines.
While other managers were sunning themselves around the world, Benitez relaxed on Merseyside.
“I spent some time with my family in Liverpool, but that was about it,” said Benitez.
It was soon time to get back to work on Tyneside.
Newcastle United kick off their Premier League campaign in just four days.
Now we are back we have to make sure that we have a strong squad and a strong team with the right mentality.Rafa Benitez
And there’s still an awful lot to do.
It’s more than three months since the club won the Championship.
Benitez’s side were strong enough to come through a 46-game Championship season.
But the team must be stronger still in the Premier League.
Benitez – who chose to stay at the club following relegation the season before last – also needs a “strong squad”.
And that’s a work in progress.
“I decided to stay because I wanted to do well in the Championship, to get promoted and then stay in the Premier League,” said Benitez.
“Now we are back, we have to make sure that we have a strong squad and a strong team with the right mentality.
“We cannot say ‘we are going to do this’ or ‘going to do that’.
“We have to take it one game at a time.
“It’s important to approach the first game against Tottenham, try to win and then see where we are.
“Then do the same for the next game.
“We have to be happy, because we are back in the Premier League.
“But the only way we can have good aspirations is to improve the squad now.
“This is a totally different challenge.
“Last year, we were much better than the other teams in 70% of the games, and we had to manage expectations.
“This year, it could be the total opposite, so we have to make sure we are mentally strong when we are losing.
“We want to be ambitious, but every game will have a different approach.”
Benitez feels that United can compete in the division.
“The main thing in football is to approach every game with the feeling that you can win,” said the 57-year-old.
“You know that there will be some games that are very difficult, but you can still win.
“We have seen some teams win the Champions League by just putting 11 players behind the ball.
“So as a manager you have to be sure that you have a gameplan, and that the players follow that gameplan.
“If that happens, then you will be strong.”
Benitez came to England in 2004, and the the Spaniard believes he is a very different manager to the one that took charge of Liverpool 13 years ago.
“I learn every year, and I have changed a lot,” said Benitez.
Asked if he was a better manager now, Benitez added: “In terms of knowledge and experience, yes.
“I now know a lot of things that I didn’t know when I first arrived.
“But every year things are different.”