Newcastle legend questions timing of managerial change

Premier League record goalscorer Alan Shearer thinks this season could have been different for his old club Newcastle United had Rafa Benitez been appointed earlier.

The Magpies are currently 19th in the Premier League with just four games to play after last night’s hard fought draw against Manchester City.

A Vurnon Anita strike after the half-hour mark rescued a point for the relegation strugglers after Sergio Aguero put the visitors ahead.

Benitez boasts one of the Premier League’s best-ever managerial records, a win percentage of 55% in over 250 matches, while the Spaniard is a proven winner having won the Champions league, the Europa League and the Spanish League title, and Shearer believes that the season could have had a very different look if he had taken Steve McClaren’s seat at St James’ Park back in August.

“It’s taken Benitez a while to know his players, to understand his players. [Aleksandar] Mitrovic is out, [Jonjo] Shelvey is out, they’re out for a reason, they’ve not given enough to the team,” he told BB 5Live (via ESPN)

“The one thing that stood out for me was the atmosphere. The crowd’s reaction towards the players where they gave them a round of applause. There’s a little bit of hope now when there wasn’t a few weeks ago.

“They should have got Rafa in a bit earlier and I don’t think we would be in the position we are now.”

McClaren was sacked by Newcastle in March with 10 games left to play in a crazy Premier League season. Since Benitez took over, there have been a few signs of improvement and the ‘Toon’ have closed the gap with 17th-place Norwich to just two points.

Benitez returns to Anfield this Saturday and will be hoping to leave his old side with three points. Sunderland face an Arsenal side in poor form on Sunday at the Stadium of Light in what could turn out to be a huge weekend for the relegation battle.