Ayoze Perez is ready to take the fight to Manchester United – after taking Rafa Benitez’s decision to drop him on the chin.
The Newcastle United forward was left out of Benitez’s starting XI against Bournemouth before the international break.
Perez – who had started the Magpies’ first 10 Premier League games – came off the bench against the Cherries, who won 1-0 thanks to a late goal from Steve Cook.
The defeat, which followed a 1-0 loss to Burnley, has left Newcastle 11th in the table ahead of tomorrow’s game against Manchester United at Old Trafford (5.30pm kick-off).
“The manager didn’t really explain to me why I didn’t start,” said Perez. “It was his decision, and obviously I respect it.
“I was waiting for my chance, which I knew was going to be as a substitute once the team was announced, and I’m always keen to help the team in whichever way I can. The manager decided I wasn’t starting, but I’m always ready to come on or start when I’m needed.”
Perez feels the competition for places is improving him at Newcastle.
“You have to be determined to improve every week and get better given the competition for places, because otherwise you’ll not play,” said the 24-year-old.
“You have to give your best in training every day and make that competition every stronger.
“Between us, we’re trying to work harder and make it a tough decision for the manager as to who he picks.”
Perez and those players not on international duty have had a fortnight to work on the “mistakes” they made against Bournemouth.
“We had a few days after the Bournemouth game where the feeling was quite strange, trying to realise what is going on, what has gone wrong recently, and thinking about the mistakes,” said Perez.
“We have to work on the mistakes, get rid of them as quickly as possible and make sure that we do the correct things going forward to start winning games again.
“It’s frustrating to have a two-week break after two defeats.
“You have a lot of time to think and to rest, which is different to last year when we had another game on a Tuesday after a defeat a lot of the time so you could change the dynamic and the mood.
“What’s different this season is that it’s one game per week, but at least it gives us a chance to rest and really think about what we can improve for the next game.
“We have a long two months ahead, and we have to get as many points as we can during that time.”
Taking anything from Old Trafford will be tough.
Second-placed Manchester United have won all five of their home league games this season without conceding a goal.
“We worked hard last season to win the Championship to make sure we could play at grounds like Old Trafford and play in these sort of games again,” said Perez.
“You always need a little bit of luck at Manchester United, and we know it’s going to be hard, but we’re going to try to play our game and do our best.”
Newcastle were as high as sixth last month.
“Our position could be better after 11 games given how matches have gone, but it could also be worse,” said Perez, signed from Tenerife in the summer of 2014.
“The confidence is still fully in tact. The boys realise when we’re not doing well, but we also know when we’re doing well.
“We realise we’re at a stage where we just have to keep working harder and try to get the momentum of winning games back.”
Benitez, Perez and a number of players attended the Newcastle United Foundation’s 125 Years United dinner last week.
The event, which marked the club’s 125th birthday, recognised the unsung community heroes supported by the Foundation.
“The support from the players for the Foundation’s really important because it is doing great things,” said Perez. “The club’s growing up together, along with the Foundation, and I have been part of these dinners for two years in a row now and it’s a great experience.
“It’s important to help the Foundation raise money, but also to see how they work in helping people in the community. I’m very happy to be able to help in any way I can, as all the players are.
“It’s the 125th anniversary, which is something special, and this year is extra special for the club.”