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Was Rafa Benitez’s substitution the turning point in Newcastle’s defeat to Manchester United?

Photo: Getty Images.

Newcastle United

Was Rafa Benitez’s substitution the turning point in Newcastle’s defeat to Manchester United?

Newcastle fans seemed to be dreaming as they cruised to a 2-0 lead at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. The Magpies were flying and Rafael Benitez was the hero. Then it all went wrong.

Just after the hour mark, there was one change which seemed to be the turning point in the tie.

Despite, having withstood the bombardment of attacking play, with Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba both featuring as central defenders, the goal came in the 68th minute as Juan Mata gave hope of a comeback.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 06: Jacob Murphy of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on October 6, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

It came only a minute after injury to Kenedy forced the Brazilian off, with Benitez opting to replace him with Jacob Murphy. It was a change which would not help see out their lead.

The former Norwich man lacks the defensive abilities of his team-mates and whilst his work rate cannot be questioned, his uncomfort playing almost as an extra full-back at times was clear.

Whether that change was influential in Jose Mourinho’s team’s three goal turnaround is unclear, but Murphy’s introduction for Kenedy, rather than the likes of Isaac Hayden on the bench, certainly appears to have had a clear sway on how the game ended in Manchester.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

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