NEWCASTLE: In Paris, many were keen to compare Newcastle United's Anthony Gordon with Kylian Mbappe. And while the young Scouser was overshadowed by his more storied opponent that night, he showed many, four days later, including Gareth Southgate, there are few more electric forwards in English football right now.
While Marcus Rashford still edges ahead of Gordon in England squads, the time is nearing where questions must be asked about the validity of that call. On Saturday night's evidence, Gordon is head and shoulders the man who should own England's left.
On the day when England's European Championship opponents were announced - they face Serbia, Slovakia and Denmark in Germany in the summer of 2024 - Gordon sparkled providing the only goal in a dominant 1-0 victory over Manchester United. Rashford, like many others in red, wilted in St James' Park's unforgiving atmosphere.
"I couldn't be happier with the players," said Howe. "The performances we put in against three top teams (Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Man United) were brilliant, so that will give us confidence. Then, when we get some players back, we can push on even further.
"(An) Incredible physical and mental effort. The level of technical performance, I don’t think should be underestimated, I thought we dominated the first half and attacked really well down both sides.
"The left side of Tino, Anthony and Joelinton was really productive for us. And on the right side, I thought that was Lewy Miley’s best game for us out of the three which is saying something given how well he played in the other two but I thought he was, especially in the first-half, excellent. He, Miggy (Almiron) and Kieran (Trippier) worked really well down that right hand side so a good balance to the team today."
Gordon was judged by many last summer to be a player who looked an ill-fit for Newcastle's high-intensity, high-pressing style. He's now the main man in the Magpies' front three, after netting his sixth strike of the season. Gordon has now scored seven in his last 21 games for the Magpies, matching his goalscoring tally for the rest of his career combined.
Howe said: "From day one, when he arrived at the club, you could see the passion he had and his desire to achieve and be successful. He puts the work in every day and sometimes we have to go and get him off the training pitch.
"He was very good again up against a very good defender in (Aaron) Wan-Bissaka. Physically he was so good today, it was a really good battle between the two of them.
"I am delighted he is scoring the goals now and getting the recognition he deserves.
"I thought he played really well at the start of the season but every attacker needs to score to get that feeling and the confidence that brings. Not just the goals but he’s getting assists as well, he’s involved in match winning moments. I thought he played really well again today. It was a brilliant cross from Kieran. A good move and good finish."
Gordon was overlooked by Southgate for the recent England internationals, in which only Kieran Trippier was called up from the Newcastle squad. Howe thinks it's only a matter of time before all of that changes.
"I’d agree he’s playing at a very high level and he has done for this season," said the head coach when asked about a possible call up.
"When you come here to watch Anthony, that’s been his level. He’s getting the goals and you need the headlines really if you’re going to force your way into the England squad and the competition he has in those positions.
"There’s a long way to go, I just think he’s got to keep very level and focused on playing well for us then the rest will take of itself."
Another who may well force his way into Southgate's thinking, in a very stacked and competitive department, is full-back Tino Livramento. A star in Paris in the Champions League, the youngster's tireless running down the left was a real feature of the Magpies' win.
Howe said: "Very good in maybe a slightly different way to Paris to when he was having to deal with (Ousmane) Dembele. He was having to play against various opponents but good opponents in Antony and Rashford but he gave them a problem going back the other way which was great to see. His athleticism, pace, speed and positioning, although he’s playing on a side maybe not natural to him, was of the highest level."
The only real negative to take from the encounter was yet another injury to another key player, as Nick Pope was taken off with a shoulder problem.
"It will be a massive blow for us if he is ruled out for any length of time," said Howe. "It looked really innocuous, but that is usually the way and they are normally the more serious ones. You could see he was in distress and it looked like he dislocated his shoulder just diving.
"Martin Dubravka came on in a tricky situation with 10 minutes to go with a narrow lead, which is not nice for any goalkeeper, so I have to compliment him for doing so well."