Rafa Benitez says Newcastle dinner with Mike Ashley was 'pleasant'

Tanya Simon
October 7, 2018

Wednesday's Ashley-instigated team-bonding meal signalled the latest step in the Sport Direct tycoon's response to a winless start which leaves Newcastle in the bottom three ahead of Saturday's trip to Manchester United, where the owner will be in situ for the third consecutive match after previously failing to attend a game for 16 months.

The win may prove to save Jose Mourinho's bacon amid reports he was set to be sacked after the match, and Ritchie believes his decision to bring on Fellaini changed the course of the contest.

Goals from Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Alexis Sanchez got Manchester United the much-needed three points, and sent the Old Trafford faithful into a state of ecstatic frenzy.

"It was a pleasant dinner - that's it", Benitez told "Sky Sports".

"It's just a pity that, in the end, we lost against a very good team".

Asked if he is more positive about January and a chance to belatedly strengthen his squad, he said: "I hope so".

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss, with a smile on his face, said: "We were talking about Manchester United - how hard [it will be], and what we have to do to beat them".

Rafa Benitez reacts to Newcastle's agonising defeat to Man United
But senior figures at United told Press Association Sport that Mourinho would retain his job for the immediate future. Any manager would struggle in that football club in the way in which the recruitment is handled, how it operates.

'When they have top class players these things can happen.

"You put Fellaini and Alexis on, so many good players on the bench, when they come they made the difference".

"We could have done a little bit better, we didn't score".

Newcastle are 18th in the Premier League with Benitez coming under pressure, though in this case it is from the club's owners rather than fans who are still backing the Spaniard.

Ashley met with Newcastle's squad and manager Rafa Benitez on Monday.

Captain Jamaal Lascelles was also denied by De Gea, while Young's handball should have resulted in a penalty following Jonjo Shelvey's free-kick.

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