It’s still going to be extremely difficult for Newcastle to secure a top-four finish, but Sunday’s win over Manchester United has put them in a great position with 11 games to go.
The aim now, as it has been at St James’ Park all season, is onwards and upwards – and what is really encouraging is how this Newcastle team looks ready for whatever challenge comes next, home or away.
Eddie Howe deserves great credit for that, because he has done an unbelievable job with his squad.
Newcastle went through a bit of a sticky spell earlier in the year when they dropped a few points against teams in the bottom half of the table, and they also had the disappointment of losing the Carabao Cup final at the end of February too.
When they were beaten by Manchester City at the start of March, they were left eight points behind United in third and were without a win in five league games. It was a case of right, how does Howe get this team ignited again?
Three successive wins later, he has clearly achieved that. They are now above Erik ten Hag’s side on goal difference and, as well as playing with real purpose, there appears to be a fantastic spirit in the camp.
Newcastle beat Man Utd to climb up to third’We owed Man Utd one’ – Dan BurnWhat’s really important is that Howe has got options now too, which he has never really had at St James’ Park before.
Alexander Isak, for example, has missed a big chunk of this season through injury but now he is back fully fit and Howe has a decision to make about who to play up front.
Isak got the nod over Callum Wilson to start against Manchester United and put in an unbelievable shift, which included him helping to make Newcastle’s first goal through his pressing and work-rate as United tried to play out from the back.
Newcastle still needed to see the game out, but they could bring on more quality to do that, as Wilson showed with the second goal that made sure of the points.
You can tell Howe trusts his squad because he was about to make three changes at once on Sunday, just before Joe Willock broke the deadlock.
I love the fact Newcastle have game-changers on the bench now, because that is something they have not had for a long time.
It means they have different ways to try to win games, on top of being so solid – people already know that they are now a tough nut to crack.
The fact they have the best defensive record in the Premier League shows they are not an easy touch but, watching them, you can tell they have got a bit about them everywhere – they look like a proper team.
Trippier helps keep Rashford quietIt felt to me like Sunday was a game Newcastle had to win – they have got three successive away games next, at West Ham, Brentford and Aston Villa, so it was very important that they used the energy of the home crowd to get them over the line against one of their direct rivals for a Champions League place.
So it was a huge result for them, and a big performance too – they more than deserved their victory
Newcastle kept United’s main man, Marcus Rashford, quiet and if you can do that, particularly away from Old Trafford, then you give yourself an excellent chance.
Kieran Trippier dealt with Rashford superbly, and didn’t give him a kick. Sven Botman was magnificent too, whenever United did get through, with a couple of last-ditch tackles.
Antony went past Dan Burn a couple of times in the first half but he was invisible after the break and when Jadon Sancho replaced him, he did nothing.
The Newcastle midfield was completely dominant, but I don’t think there was one battle lost anywhere on the pitch. It was great to see.
We don’t know how Spurs will reactThis performance means the Magpies can head for London Stadium on Wednesday full of confidence.
Their aim now has to be to arrive back at St James’ Park in a strong position for their next home game, against Tottenham on 23 April.
We don’t know yet how Spurs are going to react to Antonio Conte’s departure but they play Everton on Monday and could quickly move back into third spot.
Tottenham Hotspur: Where do club go after Antonio Conte sackingBefore he left, Conte questioned some of their players and criticised their attitude and ability to handle pressure. In the next couple of months we will find out whether that statement was true.
Manchester United will be looking to bounce back quickly too, with two home games in the next six days.
Ten Hag’s side have lost a bit of form, with only three wins from their past nine league games, but I still think they will end up in the top four.
Like Newcastle, they are still a work in progress but they have already come a long way in a short space of time.
When you think about where they were in August, then to be fourth and have put a trophy in the cabinet is actually a really good situation.
Yes, they were well beaten by Newcastle this time but, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom.
Title race is just as tightThere is everything to play for in the fight for the top four, and the title race is nicely poised too.
Whatever questions have been asked of Arsenal so far, they have come up with the right response. We wondered how they would react to losing to Manchester City in February but they have now won seven league games in a row – there’s your answer.
All the Gunners can do now is keep going, and keep winning. They will probably have to, because we know how relentless City are in this situation.
I think it will go to the last couple of weeks of the season before anything is decided, and the same applies to the battle at the bottom of the table too.
What makes it different this year is how many teams could actually still get relegated. The bottom three is changing all the time and only five points separate Wolves in 13th and Southampton in 20th – right now, you cannot write anyone off.