RAFAEL BENITEZ maintains Newcastle United are in a false position because of the way their fixtures have fallen, but the Magpies manager admits the club’s next block of matches will go a long way towards determining their fate.

Saturday’s dramatic 3-2 defeat at Manchester United means Newcastle have picked up just two points from their opening eight games, a return that leaves them rooted in 19th position in the table, three points adrift of the safety zone.

As Benitez points out, his players have already encountered five members of the established ‘top six’, with Saturday’s result meaning they have now lost to Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United by a one-goal margin.

More worryingly though, they also failed to beat Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, and while things might get easier on paper when the Premier League programme resumes after the international break, Newcastle still have to prove they can beat the sides who might more realistically be described as their rivals.

Three of the Magpies’ next four matches will see them host Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth, and Benitez accepts the club’s winless run will have to end soon.

“For me, the next three months will be crucial,” said the Newcastle boss. “We have important games in October and November, and then there are a lot of games in December. In this next three months, we are going to be playing against a lot of teams who are around us, and at our level. We have to go and pick up the points from these games.

“By the end of December, we will see where we are. I think we will have a better idea about the possibilities of the season by then, but I still have confidence in these players. In December last year, we were in the bottom five, but we still managed to finish tenth. It is about carrying on and doing the same things we did to turn things around then.”

Newcastle raced into a two-goal lead on Saturday, becoming the first opposition side ever to score two goals in the first ten minutes of a Premier League game at Old Trafford.

However, Manchester United’s players refused to be cowed, and with Jose Mourinho’s job on the line, the home side staged a sensational comeback that was crowned with Alexis Sanchez’s winner.

“I am disappointed we couldn’t get the points, but at the same time, although we still have to play against Liverpool, now we have already played against all the other top sides,” said Benitez. “We are going to play against teams now that could be similar to us. They could be teams where if we do well, we can win.”