Rafa Benitez has been asked about Aleksandar Mitrovic.

In Dwight Gayle’s absence Mitrovic made a late substitute appearance against Crystal Palace but was then yet again totally missing from the squad at Burnley.

Asked whether Mitrovic was ‘still in favour’, the United boss answered ‘Yes – you know that the competition for the strikers has to be until the end…Mitrovic is fine…and is another option’.

These comments have been taken by some media to mean that the Serbian forward is in serious contention to start against Bournemouth.

Whilst Joselu has been struggling along in recent games, I think that clearly Dwight Gayle is the only serious possibility to replace the Spaniard up front.

That is of course barring injuries, or if Rafa goes for a completely different formation with Ayoze Perez as the player in the most forward role.

Of course it is meaningless what the rest of us think, it is only Rafa’s opinion that counts, and he has made it crystal clear what he thinks of Mitrovic.

When he is asked about the former Anderlecht striker, what else is he going to say?

He’s not going to say he isn’t good enough or that he has no chance of getting a start, no matter what he might think. The United boss is always going to say the right things in public and as it happens I do think that he likes Mitro, as a person/character that is, not as a striker.

In his actions Rafa Benitez has told us everything.

When he arrived at Newcastle in March 2016 he started Mitrovic in his first two matches (Leicester and Sunderland).

Since then he has only started him in one competitive Premier League match, at Southampton on the relegation run-in that season. He did get a start v Spurs but that was a dead rubber, with NUFC already relegated.

This season it has been more of the same, most Premier League games not even in the squad and so far getting only 30 minutes on the pitch in the top tier.

In the last home game, despite Newcastle being desperate for a goal against Palace, Rafa Benitez brought Merino on first, then Diame. It was only with 12 minutes to go that the manager finally felt he had to put Mitro on, as he had no other strikers on the bench.

Not saying whether this was right or wrong from Rafa, it is just a statement of fact.

It is quite obvious that Rafa Benitez doesn’t see Mitrovic as having anything to offer in the Premier League and I guess a lack of pace and stamina are the key/main reasons. Rafa needs his lone striker to run and run all day as just a starting point, Mitro is just not going to do that.

Even in the Championship last season, Mitrovic only had 11 starts and these were almost exclusively due to injury, in fact 33 year old Daryl Murphy was preferred at times.

Fans and media questioning his absence and daydreaming about Mitrovic storming back into the team are wasting their breath/energy.

It is either Joselu battling on, or if Gayle can get on top of his injury/fitness/confidence issues then he will be back in the team. Only if one of them is injured, has Mitrovic even got a chance of getting onto the bench.

Two things are imperative in January…

Rafa Benitez has to backed, whoever is the owner, in bringing in a new first choice striker.

Then on top of that, Mitrovic has to find a new club, even if only on loan initially, because his career is guaranteed to be going nowhere whilst Rafa Benitez continues to manage Newcastle United.

Rafa Benitez talking to Sky Sports:

(Mitrovic still in favour?)  “Yes – you know that the competition for the strikers has to be until the end.

“We now have Gayle, Joselu, Ayoze – an offensive player, and Mitrovic is fine.

“He (Mitrovic) played minutes in the last (Crystal Palace) game and is another option.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses and we have to improve on everything.

“But I am still happy with the workrate of the players and the way that they are approaching every game.

“Sometimes it is that little bit of luck that makes the difference.

“It was a game we were controlling and one that if you score one goal you could win – in this case we lost.”

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  • Paul Patterson

    The trouble with Mitrovic is that he always looks paggered after 20 minutes starting the game or coming off the bench.
    I’d start Gayle on Saturday and have Mitrovic on the bench.

    • Soldier

      he seems to do ok for Serbia & completes a full 90mins

      • Steve Smith

        For Serbia he plays against the likes of Albania and Lidl.

        • 1957

          Republic of Ireland and Wales…

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            exactly i`m afraid Steve`s well off target just like Hosselu

          • Kneebotherm8

            He’d mekka better toilet cleaner than a striker – hose a loo ?

  • Dillon Tovak

    I don’t think that was meaningless, pretty sure he’s just told us Joselu will play again. Unfortunately.
    Not that I’m writing him off completely but I think it will be good management to make him sharpen up in order to get starts.

  • Leicester Mag

    Trouble is Hos and Ayose would struggle to score with a £50 note in a Sunderland night club. We’ve neither a CF or a number 10 and for that reason it seems strange to see Mitrovic effectively ruled out the equation entirely.

  • 1957

    Benitez would clearly prefer to stick with an underperforming Hoss with Perez rather than put Mitrovic in the team, for all his shortcomings in my opinion he is an upgrade on the Hoss.

    My real fear is at some stage we will end up with Perez as the central striker backed up by Benitez favourite non performer SloMo.

  • Albert Stubbins

    I wish Rafa would come clean and admit what we already know- the simple fact that he doesnt fancy him. It doesnt take someone with the brain the size of Einstein to work out that this is the situation. The evidence- well he doesnt play him or rather didnt play him in games last season even when there were no other strikers available. He often didnt bring him off the bench when we were chasing a goal apart from Norwich at home (where he did well). The reasons for this are pretty clear- more often that not he has failed to produce- 4 goals in 25 appearances tell us all we need to know and at 23 he really should be able to offer a hell of a lot more- the fact he was prepared to bring in a THIRD choice striker for peanuts from a lesser club and play him infront of Mitro kind of tells us all what Rafa REALLY thinks about Mitro- the clues are all there but Rafa still talks ambiguously or riddles- maybe he’s expecting us all to join the dots as its obvious what the real answer is.

  • Tanaka

    “ Ryan Williamson “. In Rafa We Trust “ Who are you to say these things about Rafa .??????.” Mitro is obviously not doing what he’s told to do and has been too volatistic when he’s been selected ,Rafa is the Gaffa and Mitro has got to listen to him,
    otherwise he doesn’t get picked and Rafa will pick the player who does ,simple , In any work situation if you don’t do what the Boss says Your Out “…

    • Popnbgd

      This is not a case with Mitrovic…hold your horses mate…You are idolizing and crazy in love with Rafa…We have a right to criticize him and make different point! Btw he hasn’t been stellar with NCU so far…

  • Geordiegiants

    It’s a bit like Fleckman talking about Jabba.

  • Down Under Mag

    To include Mitro you would need to adjust the formation and tactics…which could very well see us shipping more goals and therefore still get beat. Mitro isn’t disciplined enough to play as a physical presence up front, doesn’t seem to be able to win the ball in the air as much as would be needed and certainly isn’t mobile enough to play up front on his own. As much as I like him, I just don’t think Rafa is willing to take the risk…both tactically and on the discipline front

    • Popnbgd

      Still…Mitro is by far,the best striker NCU has at the moment…No offense,you have no idea what are you talking about…Define “risk”,please…There is no risk…It’s not a goalkeeper position we are talking about…We all know Joselu is a muppet and can’t score…

  • steve pearce

    So the old knackered Hos which should have been turned into dog food years ago will plod along up front…..

  • Rich Lawson

    Joselu is just not up to the job,Gayle’s head has gone,give Mitro’ a start at least,you can always sub him ffs.

  • Popnbgd

    Rafa is a douche and ignorant ….He is extremely overrated and making a huge mistake not giving a Mitro more playing time…

  • fistsofsteel2

    Mitro has to play and get a proper run of games.

    Joselu and Gayles are weak and lack prescence.

    Rafa – are you listening?