Benitez not afraid to go defensive against Man Utd
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez will have no qualms about adopting a defensive approach against Manchester United if it is the best way to get a positive result.
The Spaniard’s tactics against Premier League leaders Manchester City when they visited St James’ Park in December were roundly criticised by television pundits as excessively negative, although they eventually lost 1-0 and very nearly snatched a draw.
Asked if he would be scared to adopt a similar approach when Jose Mourinho’s men head for Tyneside on Sunday, Benitez replied: “What would I be scared of? Why would I be scared?
“I’ve seen other teams with one line on the penalty spot and another on the edge of the box. It depends on the pundit and how they analyse.
“We’re not a defensive team, we are a team that has to defend.”
The Magpies head into the game looking to avoid extending their run without a home league win to nine matches.
They last collected three points at St James’ against Crystal Palace on October 21 and currently sit just a point clear of the relegation zone, although their manager insists there is no need for panic.
He said: “We are fine. We know we were doing fine at the beginning, but when everything settled down, we are having the same problems as the majority of the teams at the bottom.
“You can lose games against the teams at the top and if you lose against a team at the bottom, then you can lose four or five in a row.
“We have to stay calm and keep working in the same way and hopefully with the new additions, we will be a bit stronger and the competition stronger for the rest of the season.”
One of those new additions is loan signing Islam Slimani, who has resumed training after a thigh problem, and hopes to play a part.
Asked if he had come to Newcastle to prove himself all over again, Slimani said: “Yes, that’s true, I hope I can show what I’m capable of.
“At Leicester, I had a good time there and a good season, but it was always about injuries. But now it’s about Newcastle. I’ve worked hard all week and the aim is to give 100 per cent every single match.”