Jamaal Lascelles, signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014, wasn’t in the team when Benitez succeeded Steve McClaren at St James’s Park just over three years ago.
Within months, Lascelles, then aged 22, was given the captain’s armband.
The defender went on to lead the team to the Championship title and a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
And Lascelles – who signed a new six-year contract at United in November – says he’s matured on and off the pitch thanks to the influence of Benitez.
“As a footballer, as a captain and as a man, I’ve really matured,” said Lascelles, who succeeded Fabricio Coloccini as skipper.
Lascelles came to prominence after coming off the bench in a 3-1 defeat to Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium three years ago.
The Derby-born player confronted one team-mate in the dressing room and delivered an honest assessment of what he felt the relegation-threatened team lacked in a post-match interview.
“He must have seen something in me that he liked,” said Lascelles.
“Since I’ve had the armband, he’s looked after me and helped me. He’s guided me in the right direction.
“I just follow instructions, and my personality and my characteristics do the rest. I thank him for everything I’ve learnt from him.”