Javier Manquillo had a rough start to his Newcastle career, but has battled through unpopularity to become Steve Bruce’s main man at right-back and one of our most reliable players.
The Spaniard signed for us in the summer of 2017 after a bleak loan spell at rivals Sunderland and was part of the side that got them relegated. The signing wasn’t exactly celebrated and he had a lot to prove as soon as he came through the door.
In his first season at the club, he looked poor defensively, lacked physical strength and offered next to nothing going forward. He was sparingly used by Benitez. When used he was often played out of position at left-back.
He was destined to become another of Rafa’s flops. Fans had labelled him ‘absolutely terrible’ and talks of a move away began. No one would’ve batted an eyelid if he had, either, with him often looking sluggish, weak in the tackle and unfit early in his Newcastle career.
Then quietly, game by game and across the next 18 months – the 26-year-old slowly transformed the opinion of nearly every single Newcastle fan.
After a strong end to the 2018/19 season, 2019/20 was undeniably his best campaign in a black and white shirt. Despite only making 24 appearances, he was used at his native right-back and rarely made a mistake. He looked fitter, leaner, more confident and assured in every way.
Slowly becoming one of our more reliable players, the former Atlético Madrid man earned himself a new four year deal this summer. Just a season before, many fans – including myself – had completely written him off.
This takes us to the present day. Against West Ham Manquillo was nothing short of sensational. Pablo Fornals hardly touched the ball, he linked up well with Hendrick all evening and the right-back also played a key role in our first goal with a brilliant drop of the shoulder and cross.
He looked more destined to be a flop than a first-team rock, yet his signing has proved to be a shrewd piece of business by Rafa Benitez.
Hopefully his good form continues after a razor sharp start to 2020/21!