Newcastle boss backs Mitrovic to play smart in Sunderland derby

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Aleksandar Mitrovic

Steve McClaren says he won’t try to stop Aleksandar Mitrovic “playing on the edge” in the Wear-Tyne derby – as he feels he won’t cross the line.

The summer signing has already been dismissed once in his Newcastle United career.

He has played smart

Steve McClaren

And Mitrovic – who has scored in his last two games for the club – was twice sent off playing for Anderlecht against rivals Club Brugge.

United head coach McClaren, however, feels he will play hard but fair against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, having learnt his lesson from his dismissal against Arsenal earlier this season.

McClaren said: “He has played smart.

“I would say he has been playing smart, and that’s what we’ve been telling him – be smart.

“That’s what he has done. Smart and effective. You can play smart and be ineffective, but play on the line and play smart.

“He got sent off against Arsenal, and could have been against Southampton and they were not derbies, but that was a willingness to win and playing on the edge.

“On that line. That is what you have got to do in every game not just say ‘oh, we will choose a derby game and do it now’. We need that every game.”

McClaren said Mitrovic had a bit of the “devil” about him after he joined the club in July.

Asked about his derby record for Anderlecht, McClaren said: “We are well aware (of his record).

“But he has shown a level of maturity in the last three games. Again, we are not getting carried away and saying ‘woah’.

“We knew there was a bit of the devil to be perfectly honest, and that has added to our game. We need that but we need control and that is the key on Sunday.”

McClaren doesn’t feel Mitrovic will be any more fired up for the derby.

He said: “Why (be more fired up) for this game?

“Why should everybody say everyone should give 110 per cent for this game and only 100 per cent for the others?

“You can’t do that. It should be 100 per cent every game because every game is huge. So why should this game be any different.

“We know that this game, externally and around it, it is huge. We have got to have our attitudes and preparation and focus spot on. And if it is not, we could easily get into trouble.”

Mitrovic – who opened his account in the 6-1 defeat at Manchester City – scored a superb goal in last weekend’s 6-2 win over Norwich City.

The 21-year-old was given a standing ovation when he left the field at St James’s Park, but McClaren is not getting carried away by Mitrovic’s showing against Norwich.

“(He has) a long way to go,” he said. “Nice (the ovation), but we won’t get carried away by that. The team this week has certainly not got carried away by anything.”