MANCHESTER UNITED ended any hopes Newcastle United had of winning the Capital One Cup last night but Alan Pardew believes the experience of Old Trafford will help his squad focus on other goals.
Pardew was left frustrated by the Magpies' third round exit after watching Anderson and Tom Cleverley's goals set up a mouthwatering fourth round tie between Chelsea and the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge.
There was a first goal of the season for Papiss Cisse to celebrate and enjoy, but Newcastle could not find a second to force the game to extra-time.
But with the likes of James Tavernier, Rob Elliot, Gael Bigirimana, Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson all able to learn from last night's 2-1 defeat, Pardew is hopeful the club can be stronger going forward.
The Newcastle boss said: “This team is looking a lot stronger than last year and these games are giving us opportunities to give people like Ferguson, Bigirimana and Vuckic a game.
“We have got some really good options now. There are a lot of positives and going in to the Europa League, the FA Cup and Premier League we will have a strong team hopefully.”
Sir Alex Ferguson actually suggested in his programme notes that Newcastle could make a “serious bid to qualify” for the Champions League this season after the job Pardew has done on Tyneside .
The Newcastle manager said: “I just think you have to earn the right to play a level of football in the Premier League and with our strong finish last season, our depth this season is stronger and we didn't have a team every week last time around.
“This time I think we have a stronger group so I think we can bring players in and out when we need to. We are definitely stronger for the Premier League this season.”
Before the trip to Old Trafford, Pardew had admitted the Capital One Cup ranked fourth in his list of priorities this season – although that could have changed as the season progressed.
But he was still very disappointed to have missed out on a place in the last 16.
He said: “We have come to Old Trafford, created so many chances, and actually in and around the box that little bit of quality let us down. We should have had more than one goal - 100 per cent.
“I'm not a particularly nice man when we have lost, and we have lost. Whatever competition it is we are in, I want to win. This was an opportunity, however tough here, and it's gone.
“We have lost, but there are a lot of positives. There were a lot of performances which were really high. We came here with a positive attitude, we took the game to United. They bounced it round us a couple of times but overall some of the performances were great.”
After falling two goals behind Newcastle were given a chance when Cisse arrived in the six yard box to head in Shane Ferguson's back post cross just moments after the pair had been introduced.
That was Cisse's first of the season and is came just days after his confidence looked drained after missing a penalty in the 1-0 win over Norwich City at St James' Park .
Now Pardew is hoping the £9m man's form will improve going in to Saturday's trip to Reading.
Pardew said: “Like all strikers - the media can't hang it around his neck that he hasn't scored any more - that goal will mean everything to him. You could see then that his feathers were up, some exuberance returned to his game and he was very unlucky with his overhead kick. I thought that was in.
“He has been really working hard. There's nothing in his work-rate that has changed, it's just sometimes a goal can make a difference. I have been hearing that the pair of my strikers don't score at the same time, well both Papiss and Demba Ba have scored this week now so that's not bad, is it?”
Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi felt a tightness in his leg after taking a knock last night.
But Pardew hopes he will be fit for the weekend, while also revealing Fabricio Coloccini and Cheik Tiote also came through unscathed on their first starts after injury.