Alan Shearer thinks that it is clear now that ‘the players are certainly with Rafa Benitez’.
The win over Swansea and rousing draw against Manchester City have provided hard evidence in terms of points, that Newcastle are slowly being turned around.
Before that, Newcastle fans could see definite improvement in certain elements of Newcastle’s game and organisation – but personal frailties/mistakes from the player were undermining what the new manager was trying to do.
Part of this upturn in the past week has certainly been the big decisions Rafa Benitez has made in terms of team selection.
After dropping the likes of Mitrovic and Shelvey against Swansea, Rafa followed that up with Gini Wijnaldum being sent to the bench on Tuesday night.
Alan Shearer is fully supportive of the United boss’ moves and says that it has taken time for Rafa to know and understand his players before making these dramatic decisions.
In the cases of Shelvey and Mitrovic in particular, Shearer says that they haven’t been dropped for no reason, rather it is because ‘they’ve not given enough to the team’.
The same certainly applies to Wijnaldum but despite contributing virtually nothing in so many games, he was picked every single game by Steve McClaren.
Concentrating more on the players who Benitez HAS picked, they certainly have responded in these last two matches, with energy and commitment making up any shortfall in ability and confidence.
Alan Shearer has picked out Jamaal Lascelles for special mention, saying he was man of the match and ‘dominated’ against Manchester City.
As for the survival chances, the United legend rues the fact that Newcastle persevered for so long with McClaren and if the change had happened earlier then he believes safety could have been achieved.
As it is though, everything is very much in the balance and like all Newcastle fans, Alan Shearer hopes that the team can build on these two results at St James Park.
Though once again, like all fans Shearer is under no illusion that it is going to be easy.
Alan Shearer speaking on Radio 5 Live:
“Certainly on tonight’s evidence, and on Saturday’s, there’s now a togetherness. The fans appreciate now that the players are giving everything. They’ve given themselves an opportunity – three points on Saturday and a point tonight which is not a disaster.
“On this (v Swansea and Manchester City) evidence, the players are certainly with Benitez.
“It’s taken Benitez a while to know his players, to understand his players. Mitrovic is out, Shelvey is out, they’re out for a reason, they’ve not given enough to the team.
“The one thing that stood out for me was the atmosphere. The crowd’s reaction towards the players where they gave them a round of applause. There’s a little bit of hope now when there wasn’t a few weeks ago.
“I thought Jamaal Lascelles was man of the match. He dominated. For such a young guy to come in, to show that presence, that motivation. I thought he was brilliant again tonight.
“It goes to show how bad it has been this season that we’re here talking about their commitment.
“They should have got Rafa in a bit earlier and I don’t think we would be in the position we are now.
“Liverpool have a midweek game, I would imagine that Jurgen Klopp would change his team around against Newcastle, which might or might not benefit us.
“The Liverpool guys that will come in will be fresh and raring to go. I’d be surprised if we got anything from Anfield. The Crystal Palace game is a must have three points and the Aston Villa game is a must win three points.
“We’ve got to win those games if we are to have a chance. I’m sure he’ll get a tremendous reception from the Liverpool fans. All he can ask is that his players show the same belief as they have tonight and if they can nick a point, catch Liverpool on a bad day, he’ll be delighted with that.”