One could say that Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez have been revelations since returning to the Newcastle team after a long run on the sidelines. However, that would not be completely accurate as both players have always put in the performances when called upon.
Their issue has been that Newcastle have some top center-backs ahead of them in Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune when fit.
After Newcastle’s win against Bournemouth, Steve Bruce cited Ciaran Clark as an example for two players currently experiencing a similar situation to the 30-year-old. Ciaran Clark had not featured for Newcastle since last January but once he got the nod against Manchester United he has cemented his place in the squad.
That is the message that Steve Bruce has for right-back Javier Manquillo and striker Yoshinori Muto – to seize the chance when it comes.
This is what Bruce had to say about Clark’s return to the fold.
“The one thing you want is competition and Ciaran was probably questioning why there were times when I didn’t pick him in the squad.
“I’m leaving out people like Javier Manquillo, who’s done nothing wrong, Yoshinori Muto, who’s done nothing wrong.
“It’s the difficult part of it. All you can say to them is, ‘Take your chance’, and Ciaran is the prime example of it.
“He’s done remarkably well coming from nowhere. I’m delighted for him.”
Both Manquillo and Muto have had some opportunities to shine this season. It only took one game for both Clark and Fernandez to make their mark. However, Manquillo and Muto did not take their chances when they came, limited though they have been.
Both Muto and Manquillo last featured in two of Newcastle’s worst performances of the year. Manquillo came back into the side against Brighton after not starting since the opener against Arsenal. He was extremely poor in that game, especially in the first half. He has not featured since and has been left out of the squad for the past five matches.
With the way DeAndre Yedlin has taken his chance, it could take some time before Manquillo gets another opportunity. He is now third choice behind Yedlin and Emil Krafth.
Similarly, Yoshinori Muto last played at Leicester City in Newcastle’s low point of the season. Muto started that match but did not make much of an impact. He had to be substituted for after Isaac Hayden was handed a straight red just before half time.
While Manquillo did get a run of games to end last season, Muto has not really ever had that chance at Newcastle. Manquillo played his best footbal for Newcastle to close last season and carried that form into the preseason.
For whatever the reason, that was interrupted when Steve Bruce brought in Emil Krafth for Norwich City. Manquillo then failed to take his chance against Brighton when given the nod.
Muto has just never been handed a run of games to show what he can do. While Manquillo has vast Premier League experience despite being just 25, Muto has very little and that has limited his opportunities.
We think the decision has been made on Manquillo as his contract runs out at the end of the season. He will likely be allowed to see out his contract without being offered a new one.
As for Muto, there is still a slight chance he can make it at Newcastle but it’s looking less and less likely with each passing week.