Managerial flop Gary Neville was quick to put the boot in on Rafa Benitez after Newcastle's 1-0 defeat to Man City. However, he is unlikely to be as vocal now with the Magpies picking up 4 points from their next two matches. Benitez' decision to rest key players for City worked a treat.
Newcastle picked up two more points in the four matches over Xmas than Man Utd, not a bad return. They were in a dangerous position two weeks ago, but they are up to 13th in the Premier League now. The Magpies are still just 2 points clear of the drop zone, so there is plenty of work to do yet.
Clark: Benitez Has Done Well
Irish centre back Ciaran Clark was one of the regulars rested by Rafa for that City match. He started the other three games, and he is more than satisfied with his manager's approach. He said:
“The manager’s done it really well. He’s managed to use everyone in tough games. When the squad’s not as big as other teams, it makes it more difficult. But we’re trying to keep everyone as fresh as possible for the games that are coming up. We’ve done a good job of that.”
“You see teams getting a win and they’re jumping up a few places. It’s going be like that throughout the rest of the season. We can only concentrate on our own games and our own results. Hopefully from the results we’ve had, we can use that as a positive and push on now.”
Rafa's Rotation Works A Treat
Rafa Benitez used a total of 20 different players from the start during the busy festive period. His approach proved successful with two wins, a draw and a defeat from four games. Rotation is now the norm in the Premier League, especially at such a hectic stage of the season.
As for the rest of the campaign? A lot will depend on whether Mike Ashley sells up before the end of the transfer window. Newcastle undoubtedly need more quality to ensure their survival in the Premier League. Ashley is highly likely to splash the cash, so Newcastle fans will be hoping that a new owner is in place sooner rather than later.