Rafa Benitez says that it is important to have ‘numbers’ when it comes to his playing squad but just as importantly, an added sprinkling of quality.

The United boss pointing to the returning Jonjo Shelvey as proof of that as he strolled through the Birmingham FA Cup replay looking a class above.

When it comes to the quality aspect, I think that Shelvey is one of four players to show this season that they are Premier League players performing in the wrong division.

The other three, in my opinion, being Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle.

Maybe no coincidence that they also form the spine of the team and when all four are playing together, it is a bit of an unfair advantage over their Championship rivals.

Rafa Benitez also says ‘I don’t like to lie’ when talking about how he’ll approach the FA Cup this season – a refreshing change on some of the character that have gone before him…

Rafa Benitez:

“It is always important to have numbers in terms of players – but especially someone like him (Jonjo Shelvey) who has quality and can pass the ball and make the others play.

“It is a big boost for us to see Jonjo Shelvey dictating the tempo of the game. He was training really well and he needed to play for his match fitness.

“He will show in these next games how important he is.

“We had control – after we conceded the goal there were some nervous players but we did well in the end.

“It’s always good to win and go through – we can manage the number of games by using the squad and try to have as many players as we can ready.

“I don’t like to lie and I will say, we will try to use the squad and go as far as we can, but using the squad because we know that we have so many games in this league, that it’s important to have everyone ready and choose the best players for every game without taking risks.

“We will try to win against Oxford if we can do it – it’s a tough competition in England, always difficult.

“I said in the press conference before the game, our fans have been amazing the whole season. Replay of the FA Cup and to have 35,000 shows how good they are and how important it is for them.

“We will try to give them something. My idea is to try and win every game, it does not matter which competition.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 3 Birmingham 1

Goals:

Newcastle: Ritchie 9 (pen), 90+2, Gouffran 34

Birmingham: Cotterill 71

Possession was Birmingham 48% Newcastle 52%

Total shots were Birmingham 12 Newcastle 13

Shots on target were Birmingham 1 Newcastle 4

Corners were Birmingham 5 Newcastle 6

Referee: Lee Probert

Crowd: 34,896

Newcastle United:

Sels, Yedlin (Hayden 75), Hanley, Findlay, Lazaar, Tiote (Colback 82), Barlaser, Ritchie, Shelvey, El-Mhanni (Perez 70), Gouffran

Subs:

Elliot, Murphy, Dummett, Lascelles

(For instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the match go HERE)

(To view our interactive player ratings and to add your own go HERE)