Rafa Benitez must be absolutely buzzing.
Yes he has managed at Real Madrid, yes he has won the Champions League, yes he has won La Liga…but the only job that is important is the one that you are doing at this very moment in time.
When deciding to stay on at Newcastle this summer despite relegation and once he had the assurances from Mike Ashley that he wasn’t going to be taken for a fool like Pardew, Carver and McClaren, the only priority would have been to get to the top of the Championship as quickly as possible and then stay there.
It took around two and a half months but earlier in October, Newcastle assumed top spot and then confirmed that with a dominant three goal defeat of Ipswich.
What maybe has been the most pleasant surprise has been the bonus of a smooth run into the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Obviously winning any games is a plus but Rafa Benitez has made clear the problems that exist of keeping a 27 man squad happy.
Against Cheltenham Rafa made eight changes to his team, then another eight for the Wolves cup match, before finally another seven against Preston.
Valuable game time for his players, winning matches and progressing in the competition, it is running like a smoothly tuned engine.
Rafa Benitez has now asked himself the question ‘can we win the competition?’.
The United boss says that despite the existence of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Southampton and Manchester City still in the League Cup, we should wait and see what the draw brings, though the odds are stacked now against an ‘easy’ opposition.
Leeds are the only other non-Premier League club left in, whilst Hull City at home looks more than winnable.
Some fancy Sunderland but that is dubious on so many levels, first they need to actually win at Southampton tonight AND then even if that happens, do we really want that Mackem circus potentially taking everybody’s eye off the ball?
I will settle for Rafa’s summing up of the possibility of actually winning the competition…’I will never say never’.
“It is important to have other players pushing and trying to show that they can do well.
“We have three or four players who have not been playing too many games – they come in and they play at this level, that can only be positive for the team and for the future.
“I’m really pleased to see Mitrovic, Diame, Atsu, Yedlin…there were a lot of positives.
“I was surprised to see so many fans but it is not a surprise…because they are coming and supporting the team and getting behind the team from the very beginning.
“I am really pleased to see so many fans and really pleased because we played well – we scored goals and they will enjoy this for two or three days.
“The difference between the Premier League and the Championship is clear…but can we win this competition?
“It is the cup, so I will never say never – let us wait and see what the draw brings us in the next round.
“I have to concentrate just on Preston on Saturday, wait and see what happens in the draw and then after, maybe I can answer those questions.
“They (Preston) will try to change things, we will be playing away and so it will be totally different. It will be tough, for sure.”