The Newcastle United fans here in the Transfer Tavern, as you can imagine, haven’t stopped celebrating since their famous win over Manchester United yesterday afternoon.
Indeed, the Magpies welcomed Manchester United to St James’ Park today for a fixture which has produced plenty of goals in years gone by, including 11 in their previous two meetings. Strangely enough, Jose Mourinho has never recorded victory at St James’ Park in the Premier League in 6 attempts and that miserable record extended to 7 games after Matt Ritchie’s strike downed his expensively assembled team.
Interestingly enough, the Toon Army managed to do it without Islam Slimani. Many had hoped the Algerian would be fit enough to make his debut for the Magpies and give them some firepower, though his thigh injury just kept him out of yesterday’s affair.
However, though the Magpies’ frontline have proved rather ineffective this season, another of their January signings played a huge role in what was a famous win.
Kenedy (valued at £6.3 million by Transfermarkt) moved to Tyneside from Chelsea in a short-term loan deal last month, and the Brazilian’s performances so far have been a breath of fresh air at the club. Newcastle have looked absent of creative flair and genuine quality in the final-third all season, but Kenedy has injected a new dynamic into the team that has given the supporters fresh hope of staying up this season.
After promising performances against Burnley and Crystal Palace, the South American proved he had another string to his bow yesterday. With his side largely playing on the break, the 21-year-old showed his ability to fight and recover possession, before breaking with smart decisions at a quick speed.
The majority of fans and pundits had expected Kenedy to play at left-back during his spell at Newcastle, as his limited appearance for Chelsea had typically been in that position, however, Benitez has defied expectation and deployed him in a left-midfield role where his attacking qualities can be fully utilised.
Slimani’s impact on the club could certainly be a deciding factor in Newcastle’s future, but the Algerian striker can only score the goals necessary to achieve victory with quality service into the box. Kenedy is the man who is most likely to provide that, and if he continues to bring his A-game to St. James’ Park then it could be a strong end to the season.