The days of Aleksandar Mitrovic being at St James Park look numbered.
Left out of the squad at Huddersfield, Rafa Benitez has revealed that it wasn’t because of injury.
Speaking ahead of the Reading match, the United boss has confirmed that Mitrovic won’t even be travelling for this game either as he prefers other options.
Rafa saying that ‘Murphy has done very well and we don’t have too many places for strikers so we have to leave Mitro out’.
In Dwight Gayle’s absence, Mitrovic was given four starts in February but didn’t grasp the opportunity, scoring one goal when the ball kindly fell for him around five or six yards from an open goal at Wolves. However, his general play left many supporters thinking Daryl Murphy was getting a bit of a raw deal considering how well he’d done in even more limited opportunities than the Serbian.
For many, the writing was already on the wall 11 months ago when Rafa Benitez selected Mitrovic for his first two matches and then only picked him to start in one of the seven games that decided whether Newcastle would stay up or not.
A similar pattern this time, only four Championship starts before given the chance in February with Gayle unavailable – despite being the biggest wage earner and most expensive signing in the Newcastle squad.
Daryl Murphy played well on Saturday and scored that brilliant and crucial second goal, have to say that even though he’s 11 years younger I doubt if Mitrovic would even have got to Jonjo Shelvey’s clever ball over the top, never mind standing a chance of scoring.
In terms of time on the pitch, Murphy has scored three goals in 296 Championship minutes this season, whilst for Mitrovic it is four goals in 808 minutes.
Rafa Benitez maybe sums it up best saying ‘it’s a pity…because when Mitrovic was playing he was trying to do his best’.
Is the painful truth that the former Anderlecht striker’s best isn’t good enough for Newcastle, even in this second tier?
With Dwight Gayle now back, there is no room for Mitrovic in the team, and with Daryl Murphy moving ahead of the number 45 there is not even room in the squad.
Rafa Benitez asked if Mitrovic would be involved at Reading or even travel:
“No (he won’t be travelling), because we have to decide about the number of players and the strikers (who travel).
“Murphy has done really well and it’s a pity…because when Mitrovic was playing he was trying to do his best.
“But Murphy has done very well and we don’t have too many places for strikers so we have to leave Mitro out.”
Rafa Benitez on Dwight Gayle (now on 21 goals, one behind Chris Wood in race to be Championship top scorer):
“It is not easy to be top scorer in any division and when you have an opportunity it’s a very good target.
“I think that he is quite happy with the challenge and hopefully he can score more goals than him (Leeds’ Chris Wood).
“If I am asking him now he would say ‘yes, I’m ready to play’, but then we have to decide because we have to watch every training session and monitor him carefully but in his head, I’m sure that he’s ready.”