Here’s why Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United are better than Rafa Benitez’s Magpies

Are Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United already better than the unit assembled by Rafa Benitez? This pundit certainly thinks so.

Eddie Howe has already assembled a better team at Newcastle United than much-loved former manager Rafa Benitez - that’s the opinion of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville.

The Magpies kept their second clean sheet in three Premier League games as a narrow 1-0 win over Aston Villa saw them pull away from the relegation zone last weekend.

And Manchester United legend Neville believes this NUFC is far superior to the one who ‘defended well’ under Benitez.

“I have seen Newcastle defend well under Rafa Benitez,” said Neville.

“I am not going to be critical of that but I always felt it was just everyone behind the ball on the edge of the box, I never felt like they really pushed up the pitch in a brave manner.

“(On Sunday) when that front three pressed or the midfield three, that backline was behind to support it - and that's not easy.”

United head coach Howe handed a debut to Geordie Dan Burn at St James’ Park - and Neville believes the defender deserves to keep his place in the side, alongside Fabian Schar, even if skipper Jamaal Lascelles returns to fitness for the trip to West Ham United this weekend.

“If I was one of those two centre halves I'd be disappointed if I wasn't playing in the next game. I thought they were really good,” said Neville.

Dan Burn of Newcastle United applauds the fans following victory in the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St. James Park on February 13, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

“I thought Burn was the outstanding centre back on the pitch. He was the one who always had his arms up, was mobilising and organising the back four.

“I have always thought in good teams there is always a dominant centre back, who basically your line is held off, 'where is he, right I'm coming off him'. Manchester United when I first came into the team it was Steve Bruce. Wherever Brucey was, we were. Then it was wherever Rio (Ferdinand) was, we were. John Terry was excellent at it, Tony Adams when I played with him.

“I think Dan Burn was that, the old fashioned centre back performance.

“We have seen him at Brighton and we know he is a good player, but coming into this Newcastle team - where we know they have been erratic at the back - I call back fours like Newcastle United's a Spaghetti Bolognese, as they're just all over the place, they cross over each other.

“I saw a Newcastle back four with a shape, with spaces, that I liked. Trippier helps with that because he is a good defender with experience but I thought even when he went off they maintained that shape. Burn definitely held them together.”