“I’m not the biggest Sean Longstaff fan but he was immense today”

Just one of many similar quotes after a surprise but hugely successful appearance for Longstaff against Chelsea. When the team was announced at dinner time on Sunday not only did Longstaff’s inclusion raise eyebrows but it also brought a collective heart sinking.

Was Howe doing the old trick used by Benitez (it used to drive me up the wall, personally) by prioritising the Everton game and just accepting we would lose at Chelsea by sprinkling the side with fringe players?

The subsequent announcement that said it was illness and injury problems which decimated the midfield left Longstaff in a rare position of late. This was pole position to prove that he has a future at Newcastle.

To be fair, he was superb at Stamford Bridge. He made countless interceptions and tackles and the most impressive part of the day for Longstaff was how he gelled with Bruno Guimarães.

The two looked like they had played together for seasons and, although the beaches of Long sands and Copacabana are just a little bit different, whisper it quietly but the two of them looked fairly suited and perfectly picked by Howe to nullify Chelsea whose midfield is simply outstanding.

The comment at the top may have been as thinly veiled as it gets, but it was a compliment. We all want Longstaff to succeed at the football club.

It was great to see him play well, it was great to see him grasp his opportunity, it was just great all round.

His performance reminded us that a player is in there somewhere and any sort of rejuvenation from the dark days of earlier on in the season when any appearance of him was seen as a risk, has to benefit us.

I remember watching him against Cambridge and it seemed substituting him after an hour was putting him out of his misery. He had lost the ability to keep the ball, or pass it.

When he first broke in the team, the whole “North Easterner playing for Newcastle” spurred him on; on that day it was like a rucksack full of bricks on his back. Like a few that day, I saw no way back.

What has obviously happened since then is Newcastle have improved, and Howe’s coaching has made a lot of those players (Willock, Schär, Krafth also) change the course of their United careers.

It’s not cut and dried that Schär or Krafth will leave the club now, despite both entering the Bosman zone of their contracts. Schär, especially, has improved so much that a new deal could be tied up in the next fortnight, and it’s hard to see him going anywhere unless he wants to. The way the Swiss defender has made his position his own again is something Longstaff has to emulate.

The reality is different though. Longstaff’s downward trajectory in the last year hasn’t been changed by an excellent 90 minutes. It’s muddied the waters.

It was pretty much accepted that this would be his last season in black and white, however sad that makes people feel after the initial glorious break into the first team.

His contract situation has been mentioned ad-nauseam for years now, to the point where we know where it ends off by heart.

Longstaff is represented by super-agent Pini Zahavi whose other clients include Robert Lewandowski and, although this feels as grandiose as it gets at this moment in time, remember how much Manchester United were willing to pay as the new Michael Carrick was sought after by clubs around Europe .

The fact the midfielder is still at his boyhood club is down to Ashley wanting more money and his obvious loyalty to HIS club.

The dynamics have changed since then, of course, and at this point in time, Longstaff has it all to prove if he wants to stay here. He needs 6 or 7 more games like last Sunday.

The top and bottom of it is, though, is that what Longstaff wants anymore?

Loyalty to the club of his birth is one thing but if you’re a footballer who isn’t playing and seeing players like Guimarães coming in your position, you want your super-agent to do his job.

Get me somewhere where I can play and more than the reported £52,000 a week he’s on.

After Sunday, Longstaff will be torn. Against Chelsea it’s easy to see him developing into a foil in certain games for Guimarães.

Joelinton currently has that all wrapped up when fit, but the successful experiment (no one really knows his position) might not last, Shelvey is doing well but not a long term solution, and even Bruno was in because everyone else was out. Longstaff’s eyes must have lit up and he took his chance. It’s now up to him to keep it as Howe does look to stick with players who did well in the previous game.

Howe is also a key here. He seems to want Longstaff to stay. As far back as December (right in Longstaff’s bad spell) he publicly said “I want Sean to have a long term future here” something he hasn’t came out and said about people in a similar boat at United like Almirón.

The onus is on Longstaff evidently as Howe also said then he would have opportunities to “showcase his talent”. An age old tactic by managers putting the onus on the player himself.

It’s no secret his decision would have already made by now had the club managed to incorporate Longstaff in the Lucas Digne deal. Longstaff was “keen” on a reunion with Benitez but his old mentor was sacked and Digne got all ‘la- di -da’ about a move here and it looks like Longstaff and indeed Newcastle have dodged a bullet.

I could see in my head now Longstaff getting slaughtered after playing a square pass as Everton are two nil behind against Watford at Goodison. We all know it.

Meanwhile Digne looked very average at St James with Villa and Targett is simply better short term.

The Everton link gave Longstaff a whiff of what it will be like this summer when out of contract players with a good agent get touted around the doors like a provident man.

I can see Longstaff at a club like Bournemouth or a Champions League club as at Celtic or Rangers. That’s the reality.

That’s the inevitable Hobson’s choice for Longstaff. Move to a club that is not Newcastle or stay and be a bit part player in the club he loves. Steve Harper- esque.

All this is immaterial if he keeps his place and continues like he did on Sunday. The transitional state of United’s team means places are up for grabs and if we see a Sean Longstaff of old

It’s not cut and dried just yet. While sentiment has no part at the club any more (we are done with that) I don’t think anyone would begrudge him a new start here.

As Howe said, over to you Sean.

Scott Robson