Joelinton - a man reborn
If you had written Joelinton off well before now, you wouldn’t have seen this coming.
If you accepted his improvements from the West Brom game onwards last season, you might have been a little more open-minded.
And ever since Eddie Howe arrived through the doors at United’s Benton training base, the club’s record signing has been a man transformed.
Why? Because Howe & Co recognised his unique qualities (yes, he’s not an out-and-out striker & never has been), and put ultimate faith in him.
To say he has repaid that so far is an understatement. Howe has spoken of Joelinton being an important player for his side and it’s easy to see why.
Whether that’s on the right-wing, a number 10 or even a holding midfielder against Norwich City - where it joked he was just like prime Patrick Vieira - Joelinton has risen to the task superbly.
Howe said it himself. Joelinton’s £40million price tag is irrelevant. It’s not his fault, yet he’s still showing the determination to prove his lasting critics wrong.
And right now, he’s doing that successfully. After all, he’s finally got his own chant... “he’s Brazilian... he only cost £40m...”
Jonjo Shelvey - the renaissance
A clear favourite under the unpopular Bruce might have subconsciously fuelled Shelvey’s critics on Tyneside.
The general consensus was the former England international struggled to impact games. For all his brilliant technical ability, it, at times, felt he was a passenger in midfield. The word lazy was often floated about.
However, when Shelvey sat out five of United’s opening six games of this season, you soon realised his presence in the team was missed.
Many took the view that Howe’s arrival would not be good news for Shelvey but that has shown to be a wrong observation. Howe, indeed, has strengthened the midfielder’s influence on the team, publicly labelling him an “incredible technician”.
And so that has proven to be the case, with Shelvey’s displays during Howe’s opening four games earning praise online, rather than the opposite.
Jamal Lewis - back in the fold
Newcastle pulled off a coup when they acquired Lewis for £15m in the same window he was courted by then Premier League champions Liverpool.
However, within six months, the left-back was essentially frozen out by Steve Bruce with his last league start coming in early February, prior to Howe’s appointment.
The 23-year-old was named as a substitute in Howe’s opening two games against Brentford and Arsenal but returned to face former club Norwich following Matt Ritchie’s suspension.
On paper, Lewis’ attributes match the criteria of a Howe full-back, and based on recent evidence, albeit a couple of shaky moments, there’s nothing to wrongly suggest otherwise.
Callum Wilson - a new leader
Just by speaking and listening to Wilson, you can tell he has natural leadership qualities.
Nevertheless, it was a very telling move when Howe handed the 29-year-old the armband in Jamaal Lascelles’ absence for the 1-1 draw with Norwich before days later revealing Wilson was part of a newly-formed ‘leadership group’.
Now, not only is Wilson a big player on the pitch, he has increased responsibilities off it.
Still, the former Coventry City man will be judged on goals and that’s questioning his natural ability to do that with his two in five days last week representing a solid start under his adored former boss.
Fabian Schar - back in from the cold
Schar went almost three months without a first-team appearance under Bruce and then interim boss Graeme Jones - but Howe wasted no time in calling on the defender.
Indeed, Schar was the only player who went away on international duty last month - where he qualified for the World Cup with Switerzland - to feature in Howe’s first Newcastle starting XI.
While Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez and Emil Krafth have been in-and-out of starting XI under Howe, Schar has been a mainstay, which is a testament to his ability to carry the ball forward and pick out a pass from distance.