Rafa Benitez was gutted after watching his team lose at home to Watford.

However, the United boss insisted that at the heart of the defeat was simply making bad mistakes at certain times in the match.

The stand out one being the way Newcastle were left badly exposed second before half-time when conceding the killer second goal, just as had been the case at Old Trafford seven days earlier.

Going two down to Watford in added first half time turned a bad situation into an irretrievable one.

The reaction of Newcastle fans went from the hundreds who walked out with half an hour to go when the third goal went in, right through to those of us who stuck it out grimly to the very end. Not without any remote hope of turning the game around but quite simply because this is what you do – win, lose, or draw.

The pubs after the final whistle were brimming with never-ending debate about where things have gone wrong.

I didn’t hear anybody suggesting Rafa Benitez was no longer the right man for the job but there were plenty terrace pundits pointing out where the manager might have made better choices.

I notice this Sunday morning that a number of journalists are doing the same, particularly in the local north east media.

My belief though is that Rafa Benitez has made only one real fatal error and it wasn’t yesterday.

This is what the United boss said after beating Stoke 2-1 at St James Park.

Rafa Benitez – 16 September 2017:

“The fans, when you win so many games in a row, they are excited and thinking about Europe…for me it is one game at a time.

“The team believe in themselves but there are still a lot of things we can improve.

“If we play against a top side and make the kind of mistakes we did against Stoke, we will pay for it.”

The bottom line is that by winning those three games (West Ham, Swansea, Stoke) in a row, all fans – to varying degrees – then had unrealistic expectations.

Rafa didn’t really believe fans were ‘thinking about Europe’ back in September but he was using the moment to remind everybody that our team weren’t suddenly world beaters, that simply they had followed up beating a very poor West Ham side 3-0, with narrow one goal margins over both Swansea and Stoke that could basically have gone either way.

As he says: ‘If we play against a top side and make the kind of mistakes we did against Stoke, we will pay for it’.

That happened against Manchester United when Newcastle lost by more than one goal for the first time (when having 10 men on the pitch) and it was the same yesterday. Watford aren’t one of the ‘top’ sides but what they are is a very very good fast attacking team who are probably the worst kind of opponents Newcastle could have faced at the moment.

A team that is willing to attack and attack with numbers and which has also got the pace to get up and down the pitch, is/was a nightmare for a Newcastle team that has very little pace in the team and is also missing a number of key players.

Player for player Newcastle have one of the weakest squads in the Premier League, if we don’t have the very weakest squad then I would say NUFC certainly rank as one of the weakest three or four.

Winning those three matches made all of us, to at least some extent, think our players were better than what they actually are.

Newcastle do probably have a handful of players who give a base to start building a decent team around but when the likes of Lascelles and Merino are missing and the likes of Ritchie is having a nightmare game, it is far too much for players such as Shelvey and Gayle (and maybe Clark) to carry some very poor players around them.

Rafa Benitez performed a minor miracle getting that number of points on the board early and reality is that in almost any game Newcastle will be facing a team that player for player is better than them. Only the manager and hopefully a helping hand in the January transfer window stands between Newcastle and an all but certain relegation struggle.

Newcastle United have a manager who is good enough but a squad that is in desperate need of more quality and a number of first choice players to return to full fitness.

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  • mentalman

    Rafa has made a number of fatal mistakes recently, poor tactics, we now have a handful of players who know they will play no matter how badly they play and not playing certain players who will improve the team because he doesn’t like them. He keeps mentioning these mistakes but he’s not addressing them

    • 1957

      It seems to me everyone makes mistakes but him in Benitez world

  • Paul Patterson

    But persistently playing Joselu when it simply isn’t working is just stupid. He’s a donkey.

  • TheNutJob

    Fatty out, sack the board

  • Whickhamrobbie

    Has the bubble burst on Rafa ? . terrible tactics and team morale Ritchie is playing like a u12 who has been told to get back and help the defence when they really dont want to .
    Will Rafa walk ? do we really care ? what next ?will we be sold ? Joselu ?
    sadly more questions than answers but on this form we are down .

    • Buck Blacket

      I find it hard to believe that you are a real Toon fan with a post like that. Most likely a Mackem in disguise. You just worry about your own team youth because you are heading for League 1. In Rafa we trust!

      • Whickhamrobbie

        How old are you ? In Rafa we trust ? grow up . i am toon through and through mate If you are scared to ask questions you are a fool and blind loyalty will lead us nowhere .
        Stick to your playstation where you always win .

        • Buck Blacket

          A question such as will Rafa walk away and do we care? You need to look in the dictionary for the definition of supporter because whining and complaing won’t be there. Oh the irony of your PlayStation comment because I think that probably describes you more than me. Lol

  • JulioLaker

    That level of machiavellianism is likely to be a step too far for someone who you rightly point out is a proud man. He’s playing the long game for sure but he won’t deliberately lose a game to lower the price of the club. Simple fact is we don’t have enough quality in the squad.

  • Mike Adam

    Early in the season it was position competition and squad rotation! None of that seems to be happening! Bottom line is that a manager has alternatives to players who are not performing, “although they are apparently world beaters in training”, and is not giving them a chance, why???

    • Big Al 1967

      This thing about being world beaters in training has to stop and stop now. I love what Rafa has done but the what they do on the training pitch is utter garbage if they don’t perform for those 90 minutes and we have way too many who are doing that.
      Here’s a prime example; I’m reading an old Mag at the moment (issue 217) and Graeme Forster interviews Bob Moncur. The question put was ‘Who has the worst trainer you played with?’. His answer….SuperMac..Now he didn’t do too badly on a matchday for us but if Rafa’s philosophy is to be believed chances are if we had an equivalent Malcolm MacDonald (IF ONLY) he would not start because he was not a good trainer

  • BillytheFish

    Watford are a TOP side, make no bones about that, they just have better players as does about 18 of the other teams..

  • jack

    Rafa needs to give Mbemba , mitrovich , Merino and possibly Aaron’s a good run , Manquillo ,Diame , Perez, and Gayle are just not good enough , and Murphy is just not ready for premiere, I think it was a mistake to let de jong leave too

    • Mike Adam

      Yes, I would have kept DeJong as well.

      • Albert Stubbins

        Why? He made Marcelino look like the six million Dollar man. Behave.

    • Mag_Ladd

      I’d have definitely kept De Jong too!

      Thought Jacob Murphy was one of the only players that left with a bit of credit to their name after Saturday, think the lad is ready it’s just it’s only now that he’s getting his opportunity! Ritchie has been awful though lately and he’s normally our Mr Reliable, I’d drop him and start with Murphy and Aarons on the wings. Joselu needs dropping for Mitrovic and I’d agree with giving Mbemba a chance and getting Merino back in ASAP! Never have we missed a player so much since the days of when we relied on Cabaye in the centre of the park!

  • Eugene Finn

    We lack quality simple as that, we needed signings last summer and didn’t get them. Rafa is doing his best with a limited squad. Joselu has had his chance and he is useless and I think Mitro should be starting, not that Mitro did much in the Championship last year. We have no number 10 either but we have to change formation, forget about 442 and go back to being tight and hard to beat until Jan, hopefully then Rafa will have some money to spend to save us.

    • Toonrobbybobson

      Completely agree. Back to basics. People moaned about Perez and Lascelles. Well Perez defended from the front. But he lacks cutting edge. Gayle is our scorer but hes small and we can provide service unless he has a target man alongside which we dont have a good one. Rafa has a complete unbalanced squad lacking quality in areas he needs.

      Stick most managers in and we’d be bottom 3. Pardew anyone?

    • Mike Adam

      Merino, in my opinion should play in the number 10 behind Mitro.

    • With all our decent players injured(Merino, Lascelles, Atsu) we are a Championship side out of our league.

  • Toonrobbybobson

    Rafa is being asked to do the equivilant of the loaf and two fishes with this squad of players. Fans need to be calm and realistic that this season is about 17th and above.

    He was hung out to dry with his plans in summer and had to cobble together something around a complete pack of lies from Mike Ashley.

    Ashley is a cancer on the club and hopefully his lack of investment backs him into a corner to sell sooner rather than later so the ongoing concern isnt his anymore as he doesnt want to throw anymore money in.

    • nufcslf

      The only thing is not to be stubborn and at least give it a try with some fresh faces when your not getting results. Rafa is stubborn and has been at every club he has managed, which has cost him his job. Ashley is a cancer and it has trickled down to the pitch. His time needs to be up and Rafa deserves better backing from new owners. Here’s hoping it happens soon.

  • Malcolm Rynn

    He keeps pick Joselu who offers absolutely nothing

    • We got a taste that Mitro offers the same, even when defenders have already played 70mins, still can’t finish, positions is still bad as well.
      I would play Perez with Mitro only.

      • Mike Adam

        Really, you are rating him for the 70 total minutes he has gotten. Compared to the 860 wasted minutes Horselu has been gifted. Clueless!!!

        • Eugene Finn

          Joselu really is as bad a striker there is in the league, I’m not sure Mitro is the answer going forward in the future but for now it’s time he got started alrite and given a run of games. Joselu just can’t finish his supper and needs an extended run on the bench or the stand.

        • Albert Stubbins

          The pair of them couldn’t finish a Sunday dinner between them FFS! Stop banging on about mitro like he’s the answer to our problems. We’d be far better off playing with merino or Ritchie as a false nine then them two knackers!!

        • I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve a shot, but he’s not technically better or more clever than Joselu, so I don’t really see him scoring.
          He couldn’t bloody score in the Championship and was outclassed by 34 year old Murphy! What is your take on that?
          Hell, if we still had Murphy, he would still get the call ahead of Mitro!

          • Mike Adam

            I am not going to argue with you, I just have my opinion and you have yours. Murphy had 7 goals and 0 assists last season in 1328 minutes and 15 games started. Mitro had 4 goals and 6 assists in 1121 minutes and 11 games started. I don’t agree with your statement that he is not technically better than Horselu, and I do see him scoring if given a run of starts. The only thing that I know is that Horselu has scored 35 goals in 8 seasons over his career. I think that speaks for itself! And as far as who plays, well that is in the hands of Rafa.

  • gallowgate26

    Is horsepoo any better than Xisco or Riviere? Who is it who scouts our strikers? Manuel from down at the tapas bar is cheap and Spanish but that doesn’t mean he should be starting up front for Newcastle United.

    • mentalman

      i’m not defending joselu because he has been poor but any striker would struggle with the service he is being given, we have wingers and fullbacks who struggle to get the ball in to the box, a keeper who can’t distribute it and shelvey who can’t be expected to give him perfect balls throughout the whole game.