RAFAEL BENITEZ likes a battle. If the Newcastle United manager feels he is receiving inadequate support from those above him, or has received promises that have subsequently been broken, he is not afraid to make sure the rest of the world knows about it.

But as arguably the most politically-astute manager currently operating in the English game, the Spaniard also knows when to stop the sniping and admit defeat.

Since the closure of the transfer window at the start of the month, Benitez has silenced his criticism of Mike Ashley and shifted his attention to supporting the players that will be playing for him between now and January.

No bitterness, no moaning, no excuses. He might not have got the signings he wanted this summer, but he is experienced enough to know that constantly running down his squad will almost certainly have a detrimental effect. At all of Benitez’s press conferences since the transfer window closed, there has been a smile on his face.

Contrast that approach to the one currently being adopted by Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Like Benitez, Mourinho is furious at those above him for failing to back him in the transfer market this summer. Like Benitez, Mourinho feels he has been left with a squad that is significantly inferior to the one he thought he would be presiding over when he submitted a list of targets at the start of the close season.

But unlike Benitez, Manchester United’s brooding boss does not know when to put the good of the collective above his personal sense of having been slighted. For all his political manoeuvrings, Benitez is the ultimate team player, and his ability to forge a strong team spirit has been a key factor in Newcastle’s successes over the last two seasons.

Mourinho is a narcissistic individualist, whose primary motivation is to further his own ends. That is why he has never been a neat fit for Manchester United, a club that professes to be pursuing long-term ambitions of sustainable growth and patient squad development while its manager bemoans its refusal to spend a world-record fee for a defender on Harry Maguire, and why he is completely unsuited to deal with the ongoing saga relating to United’s star player, Paul Pogba.

The Pogba situation is a complete mess, with the World Cup winner delivering coded messages about an inability to speak his mind while his agent publicly flirts with Barcelona and Real Madrid, but it is largely one of Mourinho’s own making.

The so-called ‘Special One’ has purposefully moulded his fall-out with Pogba into a ‘him-against-me’ situation. That’s fine if you know the player is going to be heading through the door in the next couple of days because, as a manager, it reinforces your position of power.

But if, as looks likely at Old Trafford, the player remains on the books with the full support of the board, it makes the manager look weak and isolated, and reinforces the impression of a club spiralling out of control. Admittedly, we are only two games into the season, but in the wake of Sunday’s defeat at Brighton, that is certainly the impression emanating from Manchester United.

Mourinho almost certainly knows his relationship with managing director Ed Woodward is at breaking point, and rather than seeking to repair it, would prefer to play the role of a martyr.

He has form for that, having sulked his way through his second stint at Chelsea when it became clear that Roman Abramovich was not going to back him in the same way he had during his first spell at Stamford Bridge.

That miserable return to the scene of his greatest glories was the point at which Mourinho lost his lustre, and the sparkle has never looked like returning since.

Watch the 55-year-old frowning his way through a press conference these days and it impossible to square the grumpy, one-dimensional character constantly bemoaning his lot with the wise-cracking visionary who first burst into English football in 2004.

The version of Mourinho that is leading Manchester United has become something of a caricature, and his weary resignation has permeated throughout the club he is leading. It is there in the joyless football United have been playing for the last two seasons, and is evident in the constant sniping and leaks that have dominated the news agenda throughout the summer.

Mourinho has to take responsibility for that, but rather than attempting to circle the wagons in the way Sir Alex Ferguson did whenever Manchester United were perceived to be in a state of crisis, the Portuguese would rather fan the flames in an attempt to salvage his own reputation.

As Benitez would no doubt tell him, that doesn’t work. The best fighters know when it is time to stop fighting. One imagines in the next few months, the decision on that score will be taken out of Mourinho’s hands.

MIDDLESBROUGH supporters are understandably disappointed at the club’s failure to sign anyone on transfer-deadline day at the start of the month, and there have been further grumbles in the wake of this week’s unsuccessful pursuit of Yannick Bolasie. But with Tony Pulis another manager who has been bemoaning his lot in recent weeks, some perspective is required.

Boro pulled out of a deadline-day deal for Mo Besic because the Bosnian’s representative was constantly moving the goalposts as negotiations reached a conclusion. Having agreed to the terms of a deal 24 hours earlier, Steve Gibson found himself being asked to almost double Besic’s wages as well as stump up an agent’s fee of around £1.5m. Understandably, he decided enough was enough.

Finances weren’t an issue when it came to this week’s negotiations with Bolasie, with Everton having quickly agreed to the deal Boro were putting on the table. However, having been born and raised in the South-East, Bolasie made no attempt to hide the fact that geography was always going to play a key role in his decision of who to join.

Aside from picking up the whole of Middlesbrough and dropping it on the outskirts of Birmingham, it’s hard to see what else Gibson and Neil Bausor could have done to try to secure a deal.