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Michael Owen praises Newcastle players

“Tactically I think Newcastle will be looking to keep things really tight. Rafa Benitez is an absolute master, one of the best in the world, for getting the best out of his team. From a tactical point of view I will never ever forget playing for Liverpool against his Valencia teams.

“I remember finishing the game and looking at all of my team-mates, Carragher, Gerrard, and saying: ‘What was all that about?’ It was literally impossible to string any type of pass together or pick somebody out through the lines. I felt I could not even get a ball into feet let alone latch on to anything over the top. He’d just structured his team together so well. They only played four in midfield at the time of his Valencia days.

“I think they’re a team that are quite clearly not as good as their next opponents which is going to be the case on Saturday night. Why would you do anything else but than make it difficult for Man United. Newcastle have shown this season that they are very good defensively. When you haven’t got a team that are going to score dozens of goals in a season you have to do whatever you can to get maximum points. That’s what Newcastle have to do, and that’s what we are seeing with Benitez. He is literally squeezing every bit of juice out the team that he’s got at his disposal right now.

“You have to give credit to these players. You can’t put them down and say they’re just Championship players. They have stepped up to the plate. The great thing is they are clearly listening to what Rafa Benitez has to say. He is making them better players. He’s making them more tactically aware and for these players they will probably go further in the game in terms of performance and ability.

“Rafa has done a great job and the club are obviously in safe hands under his guidance. In general it’s exciting times at Newcastle. We all know that the city relies on a feel-good factor and at the moment they have a good manager in charge and they’re doing really well in the league if we’re being realistic about things.”

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