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'Outstanding' Trippier faces late fitness test, says Howe

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Eddie Howe says a “late call” will have to be made on whether influential defender Kieran Trippier has recovered from a calf injury in time to play against Aston Villa on Sunday.

The England international hurt himself during Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Everton at St. James’ Park, a game in which he provided the clinching moment himself by whipping home a wonderful free kick in the 80th minute to put the Magpies two goals to the good.

A surprise FA Cup defeat to Cambridge aside, United are unbeaten since Trippier’s arrival, and they climbed out of the Premier League’s bottom three for the first time since September by beating Frank Lampard’s side.

And boss Howe – who first worked with Trippier during the pair’s time together at Burnley a decade ago – acknowledged that the 31-year-old has quickly made himself a commanding figure, both on and off the pitch.

“He’s been so important for us in recent games,” Howe said. “I thought he was outstanding against Everton, highlighted by his free kick, where the execution was brilliant. His all-round game was so good. It’d be a big blow to lose him, but we’ll wait and see. We don’t think it’s a long-term injury, but we’ll have to make a late call on him for this game.

“He instantly got the lads’ respect when he arrived, just by his demeanour, how he approaches training and his leadership skills – he was very vocal early on when he came in and spoke to the group. But then his performances have spoken for themselves; he’s determined to be a success in whatever he does, and he’s very much got a winner’s mentality to everything. He’s been a key, key person for us in the uplift of the team’s fortunes. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

The Magpies head into Sunday’s clash having picked up eight points from the last 12 available in the Premier League, with Tuesday’s result having the added bonus of dragging the Toffees firmly into the survival battle.

Confidence is up at United’s Benton training HQ, says Howe, who feels his players have been rewarded for their endeavours on the practice pitch.

“The mood among the squad is very good, as you’d expect,” he said. “It’s been a good few days for us. I think the players have needed that, in all honesty. They’ve worked really, really hard for me and my staff and they’ve given everything.

“When you’re in that moment, when you continue to give and give and be professional and do everything right, you need the results at the end of it to give you that validation of that effort. I’m so pleased for the players that they’ve had that, but now we need to make sure we continue and don’t veer off track. We have to make sure the same level of commitment to everything we ask them to do is there.”

Howe chuckled when asked as to whether he’s had much of an opportunity to drink in his side’s recent change of fortunes himself – admitting it’s something he’d rather leave to United’s supporters…

“(It’s been) very limited,” he smiled. “My time for enjoying it is the final whistle, sharing that moment with the players, and once that’s done – in all honesty – the brain ticks on to the next game and thinks: ‘What do we have to do to win the next one?’ That’s just how it is. That’s always been how it’s been for me in management. You’re always moving on to the next challenge and I think that’s the only way to be.

“I encourage the supporters to enjoy every moment – they should be out until the early hours celebrating, because that’s the joy of football and that’s what we’re trying to give them. The players know they’re different – they’ve got to think how I think.”

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