Defeat stings for Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final but comes with the comfort that they are moving in the right direction to be a constant presence competing for trophies.

Eddie Howe says Newcastle have changed, but Manchester United doing a thoroughly professional job on them was a reminder of how far they still have to go.

Here’s the next steps the club should take in order to continue competing.

Regain momentum fast

Howe said his team have responded to every challenge set of his players so far but this is the biggest examination of their pretensions to compete at the top.

They are now winless in six and the nature of Sunday’s defeat was understandably deflating. Bruno Guimaraes was in tears. But the prize – arguably the bigger one given Newcastle need to attract good players – is European qualification and they are still right in the mix for the top four.

There is no time to lick their wounds: Newcastle travel to Manchester City on Saturday.

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Is it time to tweak?

You don’t have to dig deep to discover Newcastle’s problem right now – they just can’t score goals.

Howe opted for Callum Wilson ahead of £60m record signing Alexander Isak at Wembley but once again he struggled to find a way into the contest. It is now just one goal in 11 games since the World Cup for his number nine and given Isak’s impact in the final it feels like the time is approaching when a change in personnel might be needed.

Modifying the system might not be far off either. Howe has stuck to his guns so far – even down to his habit of bringing Jacob Murphy on for the last 25 minutes of games (22 time so far this season) – but as he acknowledged last week, ideas and plans need to evolve. January signing Anthony Gordon, who has added some fresh impetus, should also be integrated as a starter.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Anthony Gordon meets Newcastle United Head Coach Eddie Howe at the Newcastle United Training Centre on January 28, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
Anthony Gordon swapped Everton for Newcastle in January (Photo: Getty)

Newcastle could spend £250m in summer

WEMBLEY STADIUM — Newcastle United’s upward trajectory has been so dizzying over the past 12 months that it has perhaps obscured just how far they still have left to travel if they are to truly compete.

Eddie Howe’s pretenders didn’t actually play badly here and Manchester United didn’t really play that well. There wasn’t an awful lot wrong with Howe’s game plan either and a cogent case could be made that the Magpies were actually the better team for significant spells.

But strip out the emotion and all the conjecture about their trophyless generation and the conclusion is simple: they have a dearth of world class quality at either end of the field.

Read Mark’s analysis from Wembley in full here

Be ruthless

Howe admitted afterwards that some of his players may not return to Wembley if Newcastle get there again. It seemed to be a nod to the next chapter of the story, when the need for upgrades is unavoidable.

A conservative estimate is they need a proven goalscorer, a midfielder of presence and a full-back capable of performing at the highest level. Another winger might also be required, as well as back-up able to pressurise his first XI.

That is going to require a huge spend and some tough decisions because the unity and mentality of this group has been part of its strength.

Flexibility required

It was a full house of Newcastle’s hierarchy at Wembley, with the PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan a notable attendee for the Carabao Cup final. The Magpies have the most controversial ownership, arguably, in world football but their sporting decisions have been flawless so far.

In January, faced with the option of rolling the dice and strengthening the side from a Champions League position, they demurred. The argument is that this is a long-term project and financial fair play is a significant factor. But with form ebbing away, it may end up feeling like a missed opportunity.

So far their recruitment has been stellar, bringing in the likes of Sven Botman and Bruno Guimaraes to “join them on their journey”. The last two windows have been about potential and the club have joined the rest of the Premier League in placing a firm premium on potential and young players.

They may not be in a position to add a Casemiro just yet, but his imperious display at Wembley illustrated what that policy sometimes foregoes. A dash of bona fide experience competing regularly at the top table, with a nod to the impact Kieran Trippier has had, would not go amiss.

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Final - Manchester United v Newcastle United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 26, 2023 Newcastle United's Dan Burn in action with Manchester United's Casemiro Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Finding the next Casemiro is no easy task for Newcastle (Photo: Reuters)

Off-field support is coming

Newcastle’s extensive search for a main sponsor is nearing completion and the announcement will be studied on Tyneside like it was an arrival for the first team. A lucrative deal would help fund summer transfer business and although Newcastle sources insist a Saudi sponsor isn’t nailed on, it’s still the most likely development.

Darren Eales, the club’s charismatic CEO, drank with fans in Wembley fanzones and has big plans to consolidate the positivity around the club, which manifested in a Trafalgar Square takeover that gave Newcastle something to remember the weekend by.

A behind-the-scenes documentary is intended at the global market, which understandably didn’t have much appetite for Ashley’s husk of a club.

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Mentality shift?

The friendly takeover of London was borne of pride, shaking off the shackles of a club that refused to commit and a commitment to making the most of the weekend.

The show of support before the game was breathtaking and emotional and maybe that creates unintended issues of its own – too much was invested into it.

In the future Newcastle probably need to look like they belong here.

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