The fact that Newcastle picked up no points against Leicester on Monday night was pretty much the only negative from what was an otherwise much improved United performance. That and Steven Taylor moonwalking back towards his own goal faster than a rabbit retreating into its hole when the Foxes came lurking.
Other than that though, there was none of the headless chicken impersonations that we have come so accustomed to seeing under McClaren’s reign of directionless dross.
Newcastle matched Leicester in almost every department and were unfortunate not to gain at least a valuable point.
The defence was much more narrow which reduced league leaders Leicester to just one shot on target all game.
It was a solid foundation laid by Benitez in just three days. He also decided to play Sissoko out on the left which gave Colback a bit of extra protection in his unfamiliar left back slot. Clever.
The one thing that really impressed me though was Benitez’s substitutions. He brought on Townsend for Anita after 56 minutes dropping Gini deeper alongside captain Shelvey.
It was a great tactical switch which showed attacking intent allowing Newcastle to cause Leicester some problems. And although it didn’t quite come off it certainly proved Benitez to be more astute than his predecessor when it comes to trying to affect the outcome of a match.
It was good to see De Jong back on the pitch as well. His appearance from the bench could provide confirmation that he is a Benitez type player and could indeed see plenty of pitch time between now and the end of the season.
We ended the game with plenty of attacking players on the field too as Rafa tried his best to coax an equalizer out of a team that still looks short of confidence. His post-match interview was also quite refreshing.
Benitez refused to blame bad luck or decisions going against him, which he could easily have done considering the offside and penalty calls. No, he focused on the positives and that is exactly the kind of mentality that will filter down to the players.
A huge weekend now and an email from the man himself (allegedly) called for a united Newcastle and emphasised the impact fans can have on Sunday. It simply is the biggest derby I can recall.
A small mention for Steve McClaren here; he has taken his family on a Caribbean holiday this week. Steve was photographed negotiating a jet ski somewhat more successfully than he guided Newcastle this season. Don’t choke on your jerk chicken will you?