Rafael Benitez says Manchester United should be challenging Premier League's top four

Watch Newcastle United vs Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League on Wednesday from 7.30pm

By Tony Tighe

Rafael Benitez believes Manchester United will close the gap on the Premier League's top four

Rafael Benitez says a top-four finish should be the minimum target for a club of Manchester United's size.

Manchester United travel to St James' Park to face Benitez's Newcastle on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Premier League, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeks a fourth successive win since replacing Jose Mourinho as manager.

They remain sixth in the table, eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, but Benitez expects United to close the gap in the coming months.

"It's a team that has to be easily in the top four, that is very clear," said the Newcastle boss.

When you are a top side like Manchester United, spending millions every year, you have to be in the top four and you have to win the title.
Rafael Benitez

"They can compete against Manchester City, Liverpool, anyone. We are talking about one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of everything.

"The players they have, they are so good that if you want to win or get points against them you have to perform really well."

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Asked whether he felt United were now under more pressure because of Solskjaer's winning start, Benitez replied: "When you are a top side like Manchester United, spending millions every year, you have to be in the top four and you have to win the title.

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"For them, that's the pressure. Not just now, they had it before, and for sure they will feel the pressure in a few weeks when they will be there fighting with Tottenham, Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Arsenal."

While United have won three games in a row, Newcastle have tasted victory just once in their last seven matches, leaving them close to the relegation zone.

Benitez is hoping for a repeat of last season's 1-0 win over Manchester United, which kickstarted Newcastle's successful fight for Premier League survival.

"If we work as hard as we did against Watford we can compete against anyone but you need a little bit of luck," said the Spaniard.

"Against the top sides you need even more luck. The top sides punish you when you make mistakes.

"If we want to win against Manchester United, we need to perform like Saturday in terms of team effort.

"You have to be better on the ball and more precise in the final third."

Image: Newcastle have lost seven of their 10 Premier League fixtures at St James' Park this season

Benitez said earlier this month that it would be "a miracle" if Newcastle managed to avoid relegation this season, irrespective of what business they do in January.

But he denied those comments have affected the relationship with his players.

"[They have reacted] really well, you could see that against Watford," he said.

"The relationship between the players and myself is quite open, quite honest. I told them that if we want to stay up we have to work so hard. We have to have a gameplan, to work on ideas, and give them some tips on where they can learn and improve. They are happy with that.

"Everybody has to realise - players, fans, staff - that it is so difficult for us. We are competing with the best team in the world spending massive money.

"If we think we are better than we are, it's a mistake. But at the same time, we have belief and confidence in ourselves to compete."

Image: Kenedy did not feature against Watford

Benitez also ruled out terminating Kenedy's loan deal despite dropping him for Saturday's draw at Watford.

"What I want to see is the Kenedy that we signed [last January] and did well for us in the second part of the league," he said.

"Hopefully he can do the same again."

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