RAFAEL BENITEZ admits it might be “a few months” before Newcastle United start to the see the best of summer signing Salomon Rondon.

Rondon made his second Magpies start in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, having claimed his first goal since a summer move from West Brom when he came off the bench in last week’s Carabao Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest.

He set up DeAndre Yedlin’s first-half equaliser at the Etihad, and delivered a generally impressive display that saw him battle gamely against the Manchester City defence despite limited support.

Benitez was happy with his attitude, but claims a disrupted pre-season might prevent the 28-year-old from hitting top form for a little while yet.

“He is doing well, but he can still improve,” said Benitez, who signed Rondon and Japan international Yoshinori Muto this summer to replace Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dwight Gayle. “He will need match fitness, so we need to play games.

“He will continue training, and hopefully we will see the best of him in a few months. I think he is giving us something, but he can still improve. He came after an injury with West Brom and came late. Now, these games are very important for him.”

Benitez watched his side slip into the bottom three as they lost to the reigning champions, with the defeat meaning they have picked up just one point from their first four games.

The fixture list has hardly been kind though, and the Newcastle boss insists it is much too early to start panicking despite a disappointing few days that also the Magpies crash out of the League Cup to lower-league opposition.

“We cannot be watching the table,” said Benitez. “It is too early. The main thing is the performance. We are not too far away, and as soon as you start with a couple of victories, you can go up.

“You can see the team is getting better. The performance in defence against Chelsea was really good, and here against a fantastic team that won the league, we were still there.

“We are still improving things and we will improve more because these players work really hard and listen to you. They try to do their best in every training session and every game.

“We knew the start would be difficult, but the message for the players has to be to keep your head high. You can see the things we are doing, and we are very close.”