Kieran Trippier’s leadership was clear
On a shameful FA Cup afternoon for United, debutant Trippier was one of the few that emerged with any kind of credit.
As soon as Trippier entered the St James’ Park field for the warm-up, the England international wasted no time in rallying the troops, constantly communicating and offering encouragement to his new teammates.
There were countless examples of where Trippier showcased the on and off-field leadership skills himself and Eddie Howe talked about, though his most telling command came at the full-time whistle.
Allan Saint-Maximin was one of a few Newcastle players to head straight down the tunnel, leaving Trippier far from impressed as he shouted for the Frenchman to come back and applaud the 51,000-plus crowd.
Saint-Maximin did not return. Trippier, however, fronted up to the fans, as did many others too.
If there were a moment to highlight the challenge he’s taken on at Newcastle after leaving behind Champions League football, that was it.
While it was far from an ideal debut, it was evident Trippier is a class above. During the game, he was able to push high and receive a number of crossfield passes, all whilst looking extremely comfortable and experienced in possession.
The FA Cup doesn’t matter, not really
Losing to a third-tier side at home in the third round stings immensely. And actually, the result raises a number of concerns given Howe did field the strongest starting XI available to him.
But did a run in this year’s competition matter? Not really, not when the club’s Premier League status is under threat.
Out of all the years Newcastle have been involved in a relegation battle, this one is the most important given what potentially lies ahead under the ambitious new owners.
Once the dust settles during the week, the embarrassment of losing to Cambridge could easily be partly forgotten about if Howe’s side beat Watford.
Questions are being asked of the players’ attitude, application, heart and desire - something only they can answer. How they respond next Saturday will tell you all there is to know.
Watford game just got bigger
Indeed, the visit of Claudio Ranieri’s Hornets just became a whole lot bigger for a number of reasons.
One reason is the head coach. Howe has won just one of his nine games in charge, which includes home matches against Brentford, Norwich, Burnley and Cambridge.
Of course, there are some mitigating factors to those results. Howe was out with Covid for Brentford, against Norwich he lost Ciaran Clark through a red card on nine minutes.
There have been improvements but his record is far from the new manager bounce everyone had hoped for. And there will come a time where supporters begin to point the blame Howe’s way, as well as the continuously failing group of players.
There has been a huge element of positivity since Howe arrived on the back of the takeover but losing to Watford could well be the point where the mood changes on Tyneside, and indeed where the pressure ramps up.
Signings needed before then
The urgency for new signings shouldn’t need to be re-emphasised against a League One club, but here we are.
A lot of United’s pre-January talk had been about signing central defenders to shore up a backline that has conceded 42 goals in the league, however Callum Wilson’s eight-week injury layoff is a stark realisation that issues lie all over the pitch.
Howe was left without a senior recognised striker for the loss to Cambridge.
With Dwight Gayle not involved, Howe trialled Allan Saint-Maximin, Jacob Murphy, Ryan Fraser and Joelinton up front in the same game - none of which prevailed.
Saint-Maximin, who has flourished in a central role previously, is no long-term option. Murphy, a winger by trade, was the most impressive out of the four but was withdrawn on the hour-mark.
In an ideal world, Newcastle will sign a centre-forward and central defender before the Watford game but that’s easier said than done.
New owners watch on - and pay dressing room visit
Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi watched on in disbelief as Newcastle exited the FA Cup to lower league opposition. A penny for their thoughts.
They didn’t sulk however they were feeling after paying a visit to the home dressing room at full-time in a clear act of togetherness during the latest low in a season of lows.
You’d love to be a fly on the wall to know what was said as the focus turns to the remaining 19 games of the Premier League campaign.