After years of Mike Ashley refusing to allow his managers to have a proper squad, the club owner was forced to hand over to Rafa Benitez control of footballing matters.

The summer saw the Newcastle boss invest in quantity as well as quality, meaning some signings such as Daryl Murphy and Achraf Lazaar have only played a total of six minutes of Championship football between them so far.

Adding 12 players to his existing squad in the summer, Rafa Benitez concedes that ‘keeping 25 to 27 players happy is impossible’ but the trick is for them as much as possible, to believe that they could be selected.

Looking at how other clubs/managers operate, Rafa says that despite having a good squad, they might play the same ’13 or 14 players, then little by little you lose the other players’.

Speaking ahead of the Cup game with Preston, the United boss hopes he has kept a competitive edge on whichever players he chooses to come in.

Certainly you have to say about Rafa’s selection policy, so far so good.

Rafa Benitez:

“Sometimes you have a manager that has a good squad but they try to play the same players all the time, 13 or 14 players, then little by little you lose the other players.

“We know keeping 25 to 27 players happy is impossible but, as much as we can, we must keep them all thinking that they could play and they could perform and they could give something.

“It will be tough because we know that Preston North End are doing well.

“So we have to be sure that players continue competing and when they come in they do well.

 “It is really important to keep the confidence high but the only way is by working hard because the only way you will get more chances is if you work for it and play well.

“You will get more chances to keep winning.

“We know that every game will be difficult and have to be sure that the next one will be very tough and we have to be ready.

“When you are top of the table and you are doing well, you have to be careful and make sure that you don’t have over-confidence or complacency.”