Fair to say that Martin Dubravka made an impression on Sunday.
The keeper says Rafa Benitez only told him two hours before kick-off that he was playing.
A very good piece of man-management by the United boss to ensure the loan signing didn’t have too much time to think about it.
Fans had wondered why Rafa was relentlessly pursuing a new number one goalkeeper when the massive priority appeared to be goals and creativity, against Manchester United we found out why.
Martin Dubravka not only made a series of excellent saves, he also came for crosses and had excellent judgement when it came to coming off his line and closing down threats.
Darlow and Elliot have had their moments but fair to say they have clear weaknesses as well. If the Slovakian keeper can retain this kind of form, he could prove a steal.
Most people will know that Dubravka’s only league experience has been in the weak low profile Slovakian, Danish and Czech Republic domestic competitions.
However, the media had countered that by talking about how he was the Slovakian number one at international level. Well that is only true up to a point…it is only very recently that he has got that position and at 29 he has only played five competitive matches for the national team.
Rafa Benitez has already shown he isn’t scared of making brave and sometimes unpopular selection decisions, he backs his judgement.
To put Martin Dubravka into the first team for such an important match, only 11 days after signing and no friendly games or appearances for the reserves, is quite stunning really.
Imagine if it had all gone wrong, the media would have had a field day if the new keeper had proven a flop.
To show the scale of hos big a step up it was, in terms of both quality and environment, Dubravka’s final match for Sparta Prague was a 3-0 home win over Mlada Boleslav in front of 6,234 fans.
To then turn up and play like that in the Premier League, against Manchester United, in front of 52,000+ people, is impressive.
The cherry on top of that icing though, is something I have seen mentioned nowhere else.
The Czech Republic have a long winter break and that final game for Martin Dubravka was the last before this season’s break. That game was on 3 December 2017, so the keeper hadn’t played a match for fully 10 weeks.
It is silly to get too carried away on one performance but to come out and do what he did, handle the pressure, was mighty impressive
“Two hours before the game. I (still) didn’t know that I would be playing,
“It was an amazing feeling because we won against a very strong team and I’m very happy that we won as a team.
“It was very important for me because when you are in a new club, you are trying to do your best, show people that you deserve to be here.
“Important for me the first touch with the ball, you re trying to help the players and I was happy at that moment I could pass a good ball and stay calm and just enjoy the game.
“We knew at the beginning that we were not in a good position (as Huddersfield had won and put Newcastle in the bottom three), we tried to do our best and go higher.
“I just tried to enjoy the game like every other one before, the other players helped me, especially in the second half.
“I’m also very happy for them, we have the three points.
“We needed to stay calm and keep the ball away from the box, help each other, not just kick the ball away, keep it a little bit more.
“I think we did well, especially that last 10 minutes – under pressure but we were still trying to play football, not just kick the balls away.
“We (now) have a better feeling than before the game, higher in the league and hopefully we can have more performances like this and take more points from the away games.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0
Newcastle: Ritchie 65
Possession was Man Utd 64% Newcastle 36%
Total shots were Man Utd 13 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Man Utd 6 Newcastle 3
Corners were Man Utd 10 Newcastle 0
Referee: Craig Pawson
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy (Atsu 84), Gayle (Joselu 80), Perez (Hayden 90+4)
Darlow, Manquillo, Murphy, Merino
Crowd: 52,309 (Man Utd 3,000)
(Alan Shearer gives his reaction to the win HERE)
(Read Jose Mourinho’s reaction to the match HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the victory HERE)
(Rafa Benitez verdict after beating Manchester United HERE)
(Read Mohamed Diame reaction HERE)
(Read the match report HERE)