LIKE it or loathe it, Newcastle United’s negative approach to a St James’ Park fixture against Premier League leaders Manchester City has caused a stir.

In the end the Magpies still lost 1-0. It is by no means the worst scoreline to suffer against a team yet to lose this season, and Newcastle might even have grabbed a late equaliser in the closing stages.

Either way, though, Rafael Benitez’s decision to shut up shop from the very first whistle, inviting City to break them down and allow the visitors possession, has riled a number of people.

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Former Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer can actually understand why Benitez would adopt such a policy on home turf, in front of a 52,000 crowd. Sky Sports’ pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, however, can’t.

JAMIE CARRAGHER

“Not just Newcastle but the Premier League in general, when they come up against the top six, certainly at home, it’s becoming embarrassing.

“The Premier League now is becoming a bit of a joke league, with the top teams being so far ahead of the ones at the bottom. For those clubs, it’s almost like they are accepting they are going to lose the game, as long as it is only one or two-nil.

“The Premier League has been built on every team having a go, that’s why everyone around the world wants to watch it. Will they keep watching if they keep seeing football like that?

“I was scathing more of the Premier League in general rather than Newcastle, and there is no problem with sitting deep, of course you are going to do that against City - but once they go into Newcastle’s half, where is the aggression? City had ten yards of space when they were 30 yards from goal.

“It’s just sad really for the Premier League if people think it is about keeping the score down. It wasn’t great defending from Newcastle that meant they were still in the game, it was because Aguero forgot his shooting boots. It should have been three or four-nil.”

ALAN SHEARER

“It is relegation form. The way Rafa set up and with the number of changes he made to the team I think he has one eye on the weekend against Brighton. That’s a game they cannot be beaten in.

“I think the fans realise what they have. They have a set of players who work hard, I don’t think you can question their commitment but they’re a Championship side playing in the Premier League and I think the fans understand that.

“Rafa has dropped enough hints at the beginning of the season and during season that is the case. He desperately needs bodies to come in and have additions to this squad and if he doesn’t, it’s a relegation battle. I think the fans understand that.

“They won’t be relegated on a performance like the (Manchester City one). But they have to have a different mindset in the games against Brighton and Stoke, like they did against West Ham at the weekend. They went there and played a very attacking side.

“On Wednesday they were very negative until the last ten minutes, which is understandable when you consider what happens to teams who come out and play against Manchester City.”

GARY NEVILLE

“He makes this Newcastle tactic look embarrassing. It has to change. There’s defending, and there’s showing absolutely no ambition whatsoever.

“If it were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it. Hopefully it will spark them into life, to give them something to watch.”