Rafa Benitez is well and truly back at the upper end of the respected managers table.
During his managerial career the Spaniard has amassed a Champions League, two La Liga titles, two Europa Leagues, a Super Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, a bunch of domestic titles in Italy and England, as well as two UEFA Manager of the Year awards. Despite this, Rafa has been a bit of a joke figure for quite some time.
The reason for that could be because of internet trolls, derision of biased Man United fans, Jose Mourinho's comments about his wife and his weight, or because of his unsuccessful and short stint at Real Madrid. Potentially it's combination of all of that and more, but for some reason Benitez hasn't been getting much love in recent years, until Newcastle's recent run of form.
With the side now on a four game winning streak, OTB's Nathan Murphy was at St. James' Park to see the team beat Arsenal 2-1 over the weekend, and spoke to former Scottish international Pat Nevin about the job Benitez has been doing this season.
"Certainly since the turn of the year they've been absolutely brilliant. They're a dangerous team, they're a well organised team, they're a phenomenally structured team, they're a sensibly built team as well".
"It's actually not that complicated when you look at it. But a team that's winning the way they're winning now, they've got a spirit, they've got a core of a team that never seems to change as well, he's kept them all quite fit, he's got a little bit lucky there now and again, but to do that with limited resources and find themselves arguably in the top half of the league considering where they were, he's not going to get Manager of the Season, but he kind of should be in the running. Rafa has done a brilliant job here".
Former Newcastle midfielder and Ireland international John Anderson joined Ger Gilroy and Dan McDonnell over Skype on this morning's OTB:AM, and discussed the job Benitez has done for The Magpies since taking charge in March 2016, and the possibility of him leaving in the summer, something that looked highly likely last year.
"Rafa Benitez is a huge part of the football club, because supporters have taken to him. He's bought into the culture of the club, he's bought into the culture of the area, and he's bought into the culture of the people. If Mike Ashley had of got rid of him he'd have had an uprising on his hands".
"People are saying now, 'if he's given the right money, if he's given the right tools, what could he achieve here?' All of a sudden expectation levels have risen dramatically. Before a ball was kicked at the start of the season all the talk was 'will we be able to stay in the Premier League?', now a lot of people are saying Benitez should actually get Manager of the Year for the job he's done here".
"I don't think he can leave at this moment in time. I think everyone would be visibility upset if he left. Saying that, if Mike Ashley is still in charge he's going to want reassurances. He got those reassurances last season in the summer and they weren't forthcoming, they weren't followed through. He's going to want guarantees that those assurances will be forthcoming this summer and that money, and I'm talking decent money, will be made available to strengthen this squad. Because what this squad has done has been remarkable, but I doubt very much whether it could keep doing it, they need to add quality to the squad".