With only 14 days to go until Newcastle host Tottenham, interesting to see how many minutes on the pitch for each United player in the friendlies so far.
So who have been the leading contenders so far and who is it that doesn’t appear to be a part of Rafa’s plans?
The Newcastle boss has only Wednesday’s match at Wolfsburg and next Sunday’s home friendly with Hellas Verona left to gauge which players should be used, once the competitive action begins.
Newcastle have played Hearts, Preston, Bradford and Mainz so far, with a maximum of 360 minutes available for each player.
A few things to take into consideration: new signing Mikel Merino was only available for yesterday’s game against Mainz, whilst Jamaal Lascelles was only fit to play in the Hearts match and Rob Elliot was ruled out against Mainz.
Ritchie was unavailable for the first two friendlies as he was recovering from injury, whilst Yedlin missed Hearts because he was given extra time off after international duty – plus was forced off with a hamstring injury yesterday.
Minutes played in first team pre-season friendlies so far:
227 De Jong
Interesting to see Florian Lejeune picking up the most (260) minutes so far, Rafa clearly wanting a good look at his new centre-back and giving him every chance to potentially ge into the first team and potentially start.
Maybe surprisingly, Chancel Mbemba (227) has been next busiest, though Jamaal Lascelles’ injury will have played a major role in that. Interesting though to see if Mbemba has convinced Rafa he might be worth keeping.
Sharing that second top total is Siem de Jong, also with 227 minutes on the pitch so far. The Dutchman can’t complain he isn’t being given a fair go in the friendlies and more time than likes of Perez (165) and Diame (212) who are competing for the same position. Still a decent total for the former Hull player and is Rafa having a good look at the likes of de Jong and Diame to see how urgent it is to bring in somebody else to replace them.
Ciaran Clark is equal fourth with 212 minutes and looks sure to start the season.
Next best we have Paul Dummett with 195 minutes but next to no competition at the moment for his position.
The next two matches are set to tell us a whole lot more about the direction Rafa Benitez is heading in.
Also interesting to see 20 year old Freddie Woodman (107 minutes) getting time on the pitch in all four games so far, as Rafa brings him gradually along.