Matt Ritchie reveals his big Rafa Benitez hunch ahead of Newcastle United talks

Matt Ritchie's confident that Rafa Benitez WILL stay at Newcastle United.

By Miles Starforth
Monday, 13 May, 2019, 15:33
Rafa Benitez.

Benitez, out of contract this summer, is set for talks with owner Mike Ashley this week over his and the club's future.

The proposed meeting follows Sunday's season-ending 4-0 win over Fulham.

Matt Ritchie and Ayoze Perez.

United fans chanted "Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay" at Craven Cottage.

And Newcastle's players also want Benitez to sign a new deal, according to Ritchie.

"Yeah, of course (the players want him to stay)," said Ritchie, signed by Benitez from Bournemouth three years ago.

"It's out of our hands. We can't affect it – it's down to the manager and the board.

"There's no secret the manager's been fantastic since he has arrived. Hopefully, he can stay and we can continue to create a good team and look forward to the future with hope."

Ritchie's hunch is that Benitez will recommit after meeting Ashley, who visited the dressing room to thank the players for their efforts after the Fulham win, which saw the club end the season in 13th place.

Benitez – who wants United to compete for trophies and European football – is looking for more investment in the squad, training ground and Academy.

Ashley, however, is unwilling to put to any more of his money into the club.

Asked how much of a blow it would be to lose manager Benitez, Ritchie said: "I don't really want to talk about that, because I don't think we're going to.

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"I'm optimistic that he will stay. I hope he stays – everyone hopes he stays.

"There's no point talking about ifs and buts, as we don't know yet, let's just wait and see."

Asked if he felt that Benitez would stay, Ritchie added: "I think so. Hopefully, yeah."

Ritchie, fielded as a makeshift wing-back this season, hailed United's performance against relegated Fulham.

Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez, Fabian Schar and Salomon Rondon were on target for Newcastle.

Ritchie set up the goals scored by Shelvey and Schar with corners.

"I think this team deserved it," said 29-year-old Ritchie. "What a performance on the final day, playing for nothing.

"The number of times you see a 0-0 or a team not showing the desire, fight or mentality you need to win games in the league. We were fantastic from early on.

"We're absolutely delighted with the way we've finished the season.

"I'm really pleased to be a part of this group. Hopefully, we can build on this and become stronger and a better team next season.

"I think we finished on 44 points last season, and 45 this season. We keep improving – we need to continue doing that.

"Togetherness is something, especially second half of the season. Fans, players, management – everyone has really pulled together. Results show that has a huge effect on the football club."