Patrick Vieira's revealing Newcastle United assessment hints at club aim
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For Howe, at least in public, it’s just about improving on last season’s 11th-placed finish. United’s head coach doesn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on his players.
Vieira’s side had been very fortunate to take a point from an under-strength Newcastle, who had a goal wrongly disallowed following a pitchside VAR check.
And, in Vieira’s view, United, perennial relegation contenders during Mike Ashley’s time as owner, will be challenging for European football this season following a summer spend of around £120million on Alexsander Isak, Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Matt Targett.
“When you look at what they spent, the ambition, it’s going to be challenging for other teams coming here to get something,” said Vieira. "They’re a really strong side, and I think this is one of the teams you can count on (to challenge for) European football.”
Asked why, Vieira added: “When you look at the quality they have, the investment. They have a quality manager, and I believe that they will be one of the teams that will be close to Europe.”
Howe accepts that expectations have been “raised” by the team’s improvement since his appointment last November – and a substantial investment in players in the past two transfer windows.
“I’m sure expectations have been raised, although certainly not by me – or anyone connected internally,” said Howe. “We’ve just tried to go about our business in the way that we feel benefits the team and improves the team.
“Obviously, when you sign players for transfer fees, that creates a buzz and excitement – and rightly so. But we just have to create an environment where the players are able to perform and give their best under the most minimal pressure possible.”
The club’s new owners do what to see the club, eventually, play in the Champions League, a competition which Bruno Guimaraes talked of wanting to win with United when he joined the club January.
Howe, though, won’t discuss this season’s ambitions, though Joelinton spoke of challenging for Europa League football in an interview at the end of last season.
"I think we have to fight for the Europa League next season,” said the midfielder. "We’ve shown this season how strong a team we can be by winning six in a row. If we can do that regularly, we can fight for the Europa League.”
First things first. Newcastle, with seven points from six games, have to start winning games. To that end, they need to start getting the right decisions in games.
But European football should be the aim for the club, which last competed in the Europa League in the 2012/13 season.
Howe’s reluctance to state that publicly is understandable, but it’s hard to argue against Vieira’s post-game assessment.