On days like this, when St James’ Park hums so loud they must be able to feel it by the river, there are few finer places to be. Days like this remind us all why Newcastle remain such a valued and valuable resident of the Premier League. Yes, it is surely for days like this Benitez stuck around.
He may not have anticipated all that has come his way during his time at the north-east.
The constant, painful and repetitive dialogue with Mike Ashley – an owner who does not seem predisposed to help him – must be wearying and the failure to materialise of a takeover that he himself brought to the table must have been deflating.
But here at full-time were the joys and the thrills of managing this great club. Victory over Manchester United. Victory over Jose Mourinho. A day to propel his team from 18th to 13th in just 90 minutes. A day to encourage belief that he really can establish Newcastle in the top division for good.
United were complicit victims at times. The free-kick that led to Matt Ritchie’s second-half winner was conceded by a dive from Chris Smalling of all people and the defending that followed was not much better.
As United chased the game, meanwhile, Mourinho once again decided he could do without Paul Pogba and took him off. It was another less than distinguished afternoon for the France international and the debate about his role in this team will now grow louder.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
ewcastle (4-2-3-1): Dubravka 8; Yedlin 7, Lascelles 8, Lejeune 9, Dummett 7; Shelvey 8, Diame 8; Ritchie 7, Perez 7 (Hayden 90mins 6), Kenedy 7 (Atsu 83, 6); Gayle 7 (Joselu 78, 6)
Subs not used: Darlow, Murphy, Manquillo, Merino
Goal: Ritchie 65
Manager: Rafael Benitez 8
Manchester United (4-1-2-3): De Gea 7; Valencia 6.5, Jones 7, Smalling 7, Young 7; Matic 6.5 (McTominay 76, 6); Lingard 6.5 (Carrick 65, 6), Pogba 6 (Mata 65, 6); Martial 6.5, Lukaku 7.5, Sanchez 6.5
Subs not used: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw
Booked: Valencia, Smalling
Manager: Jose Mourinho 6.5
Man of the Match: Florian Lejeune
Referee: Craig Pawson.