Rafa Benitez has made it well known where he stands on Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Only starting him in two of the final seven matches that decided Newcastle’s relegation in 2015/16, then a measly 11 starts from 46 Championship matches last season.

The summer saw Rafa desperate to trade Mitrovic in and bring a striker in of his choice, with even the player admitting he would be moving on if a club came in with an offer that was acceptable to both Newcastle United and the striker himself.

As we know, moves in and out didn’t happen, though Rafa did bring in a bargain £5m buy in Joselu and instantly placed him ahead of Mitrovic. The Spaniard coming on as a sub at Huddersfield, then starting in the 3-0 win over West Ham.

Despite this latest demotion, Mitro scored a cracking goal when starting against Forest in the League Cup, then stylishly rounded Joe Hart to score the third against the Hammers when coming off the bench.

It would be a brave man to predict what will happen with Newcastle’s three strikers this season, as Dwight Gayle is the one under most early pressure, looking out of sorts in his two starts and Rafa leaving him out of his squad that faced West Ham, stating that he had no physical injury but was once again having ‘confidence’ issues.

Mitrovic certainly doesn’t look to have any confidence issues and scored his sixth goal in six Would Cup qualifiers as Serbia overcame Moldova to go top of the group.

Ahead of facing the Republic of Ireland tonight, Slavoljub Muslin – Serbia’s Manager, has been talking about his star striker.

He says that if Rafa wants to get the best out of Mitrovic, he needs to show ‘confidence’ in him and play a system that suits the forward better.

Serbia are top scorers in Group D with 16 goals in seven matches so far, six more than the next highest, although they have conceded seven.

They play an open style of football that it is difficult to see Rafa Benitez switching to, from his rigid 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, depending on how you look at it and sometimes varying on the opposition.

Muslin says that playing ‘with three attackers’ suits Mitrovic better and you only have to look at the goals he has scored for his country, to see that the striker thrives on that style.

Rafa usually has a striker playing a quite isolated role up front that requires a lot of selfless running for the team, then often relying on fast breaks to break the opposition down. This isn’t something that will ever play to Mitrovic’ strengths.

Depending on how the season pans out, Rafa may end up faced with a choice. Keeping his usual system/formation and hoping the former Anderlecht striker will improve within it, or accepting that if he is playing the Serbian, the United boss needs to adapt to get more out of the striker and his team overall.

Slavoljub Muslin quoted by The Mail:

“Maybe the system we play with three attackers suits him (Mitrovic) better.

“Perhaps the coach in Newcastle doesn’t have as much confidence in him as I do.

“He is our first choice centre forward.

“Perhaps he feels more comfortable playing for the national team than he does for his own club.”

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Well that won`t be a problem for long as i think Mitro will outlast Benitez at the cloob
    The Rafalution never got off the ground & the Spanish conquistador won’t put up with the Fat Lads intransigence forever
    Fatso my well think he’s won the battle but he won’t win the war & the fans will be left with another stooge running the team

  • Paul Patterson

    Might be interesting to see Mitrovic, Joselu and Gayle up front. Won’t happen though..

    • 1957

      No, there’s not even a chance of two of them starting together

      • mentalman

        depends how long rafa lasts, we may get a new manager who plays with 2 up top

        • Jimblag23

          That would never happen because they are our only strikers, knowing our luck they’d all get injured in 1 match.

  • 1957

    He’s saying nothing most of us haven’t already recognised, Mitrovic isn’t suited to the style of play used by Benitez. It’s the prerogative of any manager to have their team play how they want, and that generally means players from previous regimes have to move on, it happens at all clubs. Mitrovic’s future at NUFC will be probably be determined by how long Benitez can stomach Ashley’s antics.

    I don’t personally like Benitez style of play, even ignoring the Mitrovic issue, but then again my introduction to NUFC was in an era of two forwards and wingers under Joe Harvey.

  • Rich Lawson

    Whilst I take nothing away from Rafa’s achivements a tactically astute manager must vary his formation to suit the strengths of the players he has available and that of the opposition ? If the other team always knows how you will play home and away they are going to take advantage.These are the strike options we have until at least January,Mitro’ is banging goals in for fun with Serbia,the weight of the world seems to be on Gayle’s shoulders,playing them together might see two completely different(better ?) players for this division and give us the goals we need for points ?

  • Steve Pearce

    Slavoljub Muslin – isn’t that the slimy lightweight material they make summer suits out of?

    • Popnbgd

      You must be living in a parallel universe mate…You found yourself in a sport section instead of fashion section…

      • Steve Pearce

        Translated as Slavverjob – that’s why its slimy. But i do live in a parallel universe where Newcastle are Premier League champions, have won the Champions League and have an owner who gives us 300 million every year for transfers…

  • Popnbgd

    The problem is that Rafa is not being honest with Mitrovic and I would say even disrespectful to Mitrovic…He is a young player and definitely deserves more playing time…It is such a waste of talent and if Mitrovic doesn’t suit Rafa’s style of play,then Rafa should be honest to him and put him on a transfer list.Anyway,I think Rafa has lost his magic a long time ago and he is too stubborn and closed minded and forcing and pushing completely wrong tactic and strategy for Newcastle that don’t suit available players strengths…And putting Joelu before Mitrovic says a lot about his intentions…This is the main reason for Mitro’s lack of discipline and red cards…He has never had red card issue when playing for national team or in Partizan and Anderlecht