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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Pardew pleased with season

Alan Pardew has awarded Newcastle a mark of eight out of 10 for their first season back in the Premier League.

Last year's Championship winners will end the campaign against fellow promoted side West Brom at St James' Park on Sunday with both sides secure in mid-table and knowing victory for either could see them finish in the top half.

That would represent a major achievement for the Magpies and the Baggies, both of whom changed managers in an attempt to strengthen their grip on Premier League status.

Newcastle ensured their continued presence in the big time with a 2-1 victory over Birmingham on May 7, and collected a creditable point at Chelsea on Sunday despite missing key midfielders Kevin Nolan and Cheick Tiote.

A final victory this weekend would cap a more than satisfactory season for Pardew and his players, but the manager believes he, predecessor Chris Hughton and their players can already be proud of their efforts.

Asked what mark he would give the club, he replied: "Including Chris' time as manager here, you would have to give it an eight.

"In terms of the expectations and the amount of finance that was spent in the summer, the fact that we lost Hatem [Ben Arfa] to a broken leg, that we sold Andy Carroll, yes, I would give it as high as that.''

Hughton departed in December after a 3-1 defeat at West Brom capped a five-game run without a victory.

At that point, the Magpies had won five, drawn four and lost seven of their 16 league games and collected 19 points from a possible 48, a return of 39.6 per cent.

Pardew's record is marginally better - 26 points from 63, or 41.3 per cent - but he has lost just seven of his 21 games, winning six and drawing eight.

The current boss admits the Magpies may have exceeded the expectations of those outside the club who were predicting a tough campaign, but he insists it is just a start.

Pardew said: "Possibly. If you looked at our squad, you would have to say on paper, it didn't look the strongest for the results we have had, and that's a great thing.

"But we need to carry that over into next year and hopefully be stronger.''

Contract talks with the likes of Jose Enrique, Joey Barton and Nolan will form a significant part of the club's work this summer, when Pardew will hope to be allowed to invest the lion's share of the £35million they banked from Andy Carroll's January move to Liverpool.

They have already been linked with a lengthy list of targets both at home and abroad with the name of West Ham striker Carlton Cole surfacing once again today.

Pardew has already vowed to recruit the type of player who will excite the Toon Army, although critics of the Mike Ashley regime remain unconvinced that that kind of investment will be made.

However, the 49-year-old is relishing the prospect of stamping his own mark on the club.

He said: "I can only talk from my personal fulfilment as a football manager at a great club, and it has been fantastic on that front.

"I have really enjoyed it. People have been tremendous and the players and the squad and the staff here - I have got to be honest, I think we have pulled above our weight and long may that continue.''

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