Rafael Benitez has warned Newcastle not to be taken in by Manchester United’s current difficulties.
The Magpies head for Old Trafford on Saturday still looking for their first win of the season against a United side without a victory in four outings on its own pitch and with manager Jose Mourinho firmly in the firing line.
However, Newcastle counterpart Benitez is refusing to be fooled by the talk of crisis as he attempted to kick-start the visitors’ season.
Asked if Mourinho’s men might be fragile, he replied: “In all my time in England, I don’t remember any fragile Manchester United team. All of them have been really strong every year with good managers, good players, so I don’t see any fragile Manchester United team.
“I can see a team that everyone was expecting to be higher, but it’s a question of time, like us.
“Who is at the top of the table in the Premier League? The three teams who spent more money than anyone. Who is at the bottom of the table? Teams that didn’t spend so much money.
“That is a normal situation.”
If Mourinho has found himself under the spotlight in recent days, so too has Magpies owner Mike Ashley, who took Benitez, his staff and players out for dinner on Wednesday night in a bid to restore a little calm after a fractious few months on Tyneside.
It came 24 hours after former boss Kevin Keegan was on Tyneside to launch his autobiography, which includes details of the breakdown of his relationship with the club’s owner during his second spell at St James’ Park.
Benitez, however, was coy when asked about a get-together which it is hoped may have started to heal some of the rifts in his own relationship with Ashley.
On the day he accepted a Football Association charge of commenting on a match official ahead of a game, incurring a £60,000 fine, he said: “It was a pleasant dinner and that’s it. Everything we were talking about will stay between us.
“Normally with all the teams I have been, you used to have some kind of dinners with the owners or the president, and it is something very common in football.
“I will not talk too much about that because we have to concentrate on the game. We have an important game to play.
“As I said before, it was a pleasant dinner, we were talking about everything and now we have to concentrate on football.”