26/09/2012 10:03 BST | Updated 26/09/2012 10:04 BST

Newcastle United Defender Davide Santon Swaps Pasta For Pies

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has revealed Davide Santon's good form may be down to his local girlfriend providing him with pies.

Santon, a £5m signing from Internazionale last year, has emerged as a regular at left-back thanks to his consistent performances and Ryan Taylor's long-term lay-off after he damaged his cruciate ligament.

And Pardew, speaking ahead of the Magpies' Capital One Cup clash with Manchester United on Wednesday night,

"He is a lovely lad, loves the area and does a great job," an effusive Pardew said.

"His language skills have improved. I think he has a north-east girlfriend now cooking him some nice pies so he is a bit happier. He just looks in a good place and I am really pleased with him.

"I think he was a boy last year. He is a man now and is starting to play like a man."

José Mourinho gave Santon his Inter debut as an 18-year-old against Roma in January 2009, but it was his performance up against Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League a month later which elevated his profile.

Ronaldo praised his opponent as "impressive" while Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi described him as "A predestined that reminds of a young Paolo Maldini."

However injuries and a crisis of confidence cut short a promising career in Serie, but the 21-year-old is now winning more admirers on Tyneside.