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Old Trafford victory has Pardew dreaming of the Champions League
HAVING watched his Newcastle United side create history by winning at Old Trafford, a jubilant Alan Pardew has claimed Champions League qualification is a possibility in this most open of Premier League campaigns.
Yohan Cabaye's second-half winner secured Newcastle's first win at the home of Manchester United since 1972, and opened up a four-point gap between the Magpies and the reigning champions.
Having briefly climbed into sixth position, Newcastle dropped back to seventh when Tottenham won at Sunderland on Saturday night, but with more than a third of the season gone, Pardew's side are just three points off a Champions League place.
With the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea struggling to find any consistency, the Premier League is more open than ever, and while last week's defeat at Swansea confirmed Newcastle's limitations, Saturday's thrilling success proved they are capable of matching anyone on their day.
When asked about the possibility of qualifying for the Champions League, Pardew said: “I'm not saying 'No'. I think it is a situation where if all the top teams are beating each other, it gives us an opportunity. That is encouraging.
“To have Everton, Southampton and ourselves going so well is hugely positive. We are all playing strong, as are Aston Villa. The top teams can come unstuck, and that can open the door.
“All we have to do is make sure we keep playing as well as we are, and get to April. Hopefully, we will still be in the mix then.”
While Manchester United have lost some of their lustre since David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer, the weight of history was hanging heavy on the shoulders of Newcastle's players as they closed in on their club's first Old Trafford victory for more than four decades.
They dealt with that in the same assured manner they handled the attacking threat posed by Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, and even the most ardent of Manchester United fans would have been hard pushed to claim their side deserved anything other than a defeat.
Newcastle have now beaten Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in three of their last six games, and while the visit of Arsenal between Christmas and New Year represents another huge test, their form means they should not be fearful of facing anyone.
“Most of the teams are taking a more positive outlook towards playing against the top teams,” said Pardew. “I think that is great for the Premier League, and it has been reflected in results.
“Of course winning at Old Trafford will give the players more confidence. We are not going to get a bigger stadium than that to play in. It bodes well for all the other grounds we have to go to, including the Emirates (in April).”
Newcastle's more immediate challenge is the visit of Southampton on Saturday, and while Pardew's former club are enduring something of a sticky patch, there will be no complacency ahead of the weekend's game, particularly as the Magpies will be without one of their key players.
Cabaye picked up his fifth booking of the season in the early stages of this weekend's game, and while that hardly overshadowed what was to follow, it nevertheless poses a problem for the visit of the Saints.
“We are not going to get carried away or look too far ahead,” said Pardew. “We have a difficult game coming up (against Southampton) and we have lost Cabaye. That will be a blow to us.
“But it's a home game and, after this, our place is going to be rocking. I'm really looking forward to that.”
Pardew's opposite number has no time to lick his wounds from Saturday's defeat, as David Moyes has to prepare a side for tomorrow's final Champions League group game against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Manchester United have now won just six of their 15 Premier League matches this season, and while there was always going to be a period of transition following Ferguson's departure, few could have expected it to be quite as traumatic.
“You have to have your family and close aides around you,” said Pardew. “But the most important thing is having an inner belief and faith in what you do. That's what I always call upon, and David's got that too. So he should have after his record at Everton.
“We all know that following Sir Alex Ferguson, although a privilege and a great honour, was always going to be a difficult job. He knows that.”
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