Today will see countless Newcastle fans picking their dream team to play Burton and as usual, Aleksandar Mitrovic will be included by the vast majority alongside Dwight Gayle.
Friday saw Rafa Benitez once again quizzed about Mitrovic, following some more dubious transfer speculation that Porto and other clubs are interested in taking the Serbian striker (this followed even less likely rumours that West Ham and Palace want him).
Rafa played a straight bat and simply said it was a general problem of him having so many players, using the example of Daryl Murphy, as usual, not even being in Newcastle’s Championship squad today.
Murphy has clearly been bought purely as cover/insurance and like any insurance that can, to some people, look like a waste of money if you don’t have to call in, the insurance. Past experience though tells us this was a wise move by Rafa, with Murphy a proven goal-getter in the Championship.
However, surely the situation with Mitrovic is totally different, a near £15m buy and the top wage earner at the club, yet very rarely used.
Rafa says that is ‘is not easy’ when it comes to leaving Mitrovic out of the side but then what else can he say?
His actions tell you time after time that the United boss has zero/little faith in the former Anderlecht forward.
At Wigan, despite Dwight Gayle struggling to make any impact, Benitez never called on Mitrovic to do a job. In fact it was Perez who he eventually threw on with eight minutes remaining and Newcastle two up.
Against Birmingham, Mitrovic did get on the pitch with United 4-0 up but he looked even slower than usual, after making one ‘run’ he was left gasping for breath.
The Forest match, playing a man down for an hour and two down for a full half, with United desperately fighting a nine man battle, Rafa Benitez didn’t feel he could trust Mitrovic. So it was only when Forest went 2-1 up that the manager took off an exhausted Dwight Gayle and gave the Serbian striker the last three minutes.
Against Hull the one-time Partizan player wasn’t in the squad after playing a rare full match against Blackburn on the Saturday. His lack of pace and movement was shocking and Mitrovic made it so easy for the visiting defenders. After making changes and giving other players a chance ahead of the League Cup quarter-final, Rafa had been badly let down against one of the league’s worst teams.
Benitez is obviously going to take the professional line and just get on with things…but he must dream of somebody making any kind of half-decent bid for Mitrovic in January and that could allow him to bring in a striker that he does want and one who he sees a value in playing.
Rafa Benitez Friday 16 December:
“I have to make these decisions, Daryl Murphy is doing really well and he is very professional and a good finisher but he is not in the squad (for Burton).
“Leaving him and Mitrovic out of the squad and the team is not easy….but Dwight, the top scorer in the league, is also doing well and we have other strikers who could be playing.
“We have to keep them training well and coaching them properly – even when they’re not playing you have to try your best for them also.
“It (transfer speculation) happens, players have agents and so if they are not playing, somebody will try to move him on because he thinks it will be fine, there is commission in the middle.
“That’s the problem with football now.”