Rafa Benitez has been super busy this summer, single-handedly restructuring the club from top to bottom.
Top of his priorities was to address the desperate issues within the playing staff. The obvious ones have been shown the door, or at least banished from the squad until a serious buyer shows themselves, and replacements and reinforcements have been brought in.
Of these signings, one of the most positive was that of Dwight Gayle. A player that has always looked quick and sharp on the telly when given a game; young, homegrown and with a point to prove.
Despite his four goals though, so far his influence in general play has been minimal. Saturday’s goal at Bristol City was the first sign of his pace and real killer instinct. His other three goals coming from a tap-in, a fortunate rebound from a poor penalty and an excellent free-kick.
The right to wear the number 9 must be earnt and since Shearer, we haven’t really had a rightful owner.
Support from United fans was not unanimous in favour of Dwight Gayle receiving the famous shirt – our resident lunatic Mitro, has crafted himself a cult status on Tyneside and many felt he deserved the honour of the hallowed digit.
He is strong, certainly physical, good in the air, and passionate. However, the Serb’s absence from the opening games this season underline the reasons why he was ultimately overlooked, and why Dwight Gayle has mostly struggled to fire so far in open play this season.
The bare facts show that Mitrovic misses a lot of games. Until recent images which suggest he may have resolved some of his fitness issues, Mitro was too out of shape to cope with the rigors of elite level English football.
The most pertinent cause of him being unavailable for selection though is that he’s a bloody hooligan. Stupid and reckless decisions on the field give Mitrovic a reputation that Championship referees will not have missed.
United though, and Gayle, Perez and Armstrong too, have missed him however. The amount of changes Rafa has been making to his starting eleven imply he hasn’t been entirely happy with the style of play on show.
We lack a genuinely creative midfield to slide dangerous passes down the channels for a player of Gayle’s ilk to prey on yet, despite also lacking a target man, the only discernible approach has been in the main to lump aimless balls toward a diminutive striker that has little chance up against big, ugly Championship defenders.
Besides hoping Rafa has plans to sign a midfield general to add direction to our play, it is probably unfair to judge too harshly without a full squad at his disposal.
Now Mitrovic has returned from suspension (or some other centre forward is brought in with similar attributes and a cooler head), I can envisage Dwight Gayle looking as dangerous as we thought he could be in this division, feeding off the big man’s scraps – Bellamyesque.
Filling his boots and the number 9 shirt in the process.