EDDIE HOWE insists he is well aware of the key areas where Newcastle United need to improve in the summer in order to ensure days like Sunday’s Carabao Cup final become increasingly commonplace in the future.

The Magpies made their first appearance in a Wembley final for 24 years at the weekend, and while events on the pitch might not have gone as planned as Manchester United claimed a 2-0 victory, most supporters headed back to the North-East having had a weekend to remember.

The hope is that, with the club’s new owners now fully settled in, Newcastle will spend the next few years competing at English football’s top table, but while Howe’s side have spent most of the current campaign competing for a place in the top four, Sunday’s defeat highlighted how far they still have to go before they can be considered genuine rivals for the likes of Manchester United.

While Newcastle splashed out £45m to sign Anthony Gordon from Everton in January, the club’s recruitment team were determined to ensure there was scope within the Financial Fair Play regulations to make further significant additions in the summer, and Howe has already identified the key areas he wants to strengthen.

The purchase of a new central midfielder is likely to be a priority, with Jonjo Shelvey’s January departure having left a hole in the squad, while Newcastle are also understood to be focusing on potential left-back signings as they look to strengthen the defence.

“Every game gives you a clue of where you need to strengthen,” said Howe. “We are always analysing where we can improve and how we need to get better. I don’t think there will be any overreaction to this game in particular, but certainly we know how and what we need to do to push the team on.

The Northern Echo: Matt Ritchie consoles a distraught Fabian Schar after Newcastle's defeat in the Carabao Cup finalMatt Ritchie consoles a distraught Fabian Schar after Newcastle's defeat in the Carabao Cup final (Image: PA)

“I hope this is just a start for us, but the competition is very, very high, so we have to improve. We can’t stand still, we can’t think we’re something at this moment in time, we have to prove we are and so next year, in these competitions – the FA Cup and League Cup – we have to go again, with the intention of trying to win.”

Newcastle’s chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan, was at Wembley on Sunday, sitting alongside co-owner Amanda Staveley in the Royal box.

The governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will have the final say over the size of this summer’s transfer budget, and Howe is hoping the weekend’s events will have whetted his appetite to ensure there is further progress in the next few years.

“I think he will probably have been interested in the day as a whole,” said the Magpies boss. “The atmosphere, the experience – I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to lose, as we all are at Newcastle, but from the little embrace we had when we picked up our medals, he was very positive.”

The challenge facing Howe and his players in the remaining three months of the current campaign is to ensure Newcastle’s season does not fizzle out to a disappointing conclusion.

Tottenham’s weekend win over Chelsea means the Magpies are now four points adrift of fourth position, albeit with two games in hand over Spurs, and while Champions League qualification remains a major ambition, Manchester United’s League Cup win means a Europa League place will be available for whoever finishes sixth provided Erik ten Hag’s side either finish in the top four or win this season’s Europa League.

Newcastle head to Manchester City this weekend for arguably the toughest game on the Premier League calendar, with Howe admitting there is a need to address his side’s current struggles in front of goal.

“I think the team is playing well, it’s functioning well, but we’re not maybe as free-scoring as we were,” he said. “I think that’s a challenge for us – I think that’s a challenge for any team, it’s the hardest thing to do in the game.

“There were moments for us (in the final). We had a lot of ball around their box, had a lot of set-plays, had a lot of moments where we really could have opened them up, but we didn’t and I think that’s something we’ll need to continually work on to improve.”