LONDON: The start of a journey, not the end.
That is very much the narrative at Newcastle United after their Carabao Cup dreams went up in smoke at Wembley.
Two first-half goals, from Casemiro and an own goal from Sven Botman, ensured Erik ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford is one lined with silver, as the Red Devils cruised to victory over Eddie Howe’s Magpies.
While pride will come in time — this team was the first since 1999 to reach a major competition final — disappointment reigns supreme among the Geordie faithful.
And while in many ways this is the end of one particular journey, it still only feels like the start of a process when it comes to PIF-charged Newcastle.
Progress has been rapid at St. James’ Park with a Wembley final just 12 months after a relegation battle, and there is little doubt that these occasions will become the norm for Newcastle in future years with ambitions high and aims aplenty at the football club.
On the selection front, head coach Howe made three changes to his Newcastle side beaten by Liverpool last weekend. The only enforced one was handing a debut to Loris Karius in goal with Nick Pope suspended. Callum Wilson was recalled up front in place of Alexander Isak, while Bruno Guimaraes returned from suspension.
In a tense but lively opening 20 minutes there was little between the sides as the Magpies, roared on by more than 30,000 traveling Geordies, took the game to the opposition.
The first real opportunity of note fell the way of Newcastle as some smart work down the right by Kieran Trippier and Miguel Almiron ended with Fabian Schar heading wide.
The Magpies looked the more likely to open the scoring. Allan Saint-Maximin jinked his way into space after a searching ball by Sean Longstaff and, having beaten Diogo Dalot, his powerful drive was beaten away by the outstretched arm of David de Gea.
The game then flipped on its head as the Red Devils took absolute control in the space of six first-half minutes.
A whipped Luke Shaw cross was headed home by Casemiro at the near post on 33 minutes, before Marcus Rashford’s shot toward goal deflected off Botman and up and over Karius, who may feel he could have done better to keep it out.
With Casemiro then pulling the strings, Newcastle never really looked like getting back into this one — although Dan Burn could and should have diverted a header goalwards from close range.
That was as good as it got for the Magpies. While they had plenty of the ball and pushed for a goal, their lack of quality in the final third told, as they created next to nothing.
In fact, despite their second-half passivity, it was the Red Devils who went closest to adding to their tally, with Karius saving from Rashford and Bruno Fernandes.
At the other end, a flash of a right boot from substitute Jacob Murphy was close, and Joelinton tested De Gea with a header, but the game had already gone.
The 54-year wait for a trophy on Tyneside goes on, but one feels it will soon be over.
And even in the pain of defeat, this team feels closer than ever to ending the silverware drought.