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.
“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.”
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.
“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.