GARRY MONK stands by the three substitutions he made during Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic – reasoning that all three changes were made with the best intentions and that he would do exactly the same again.
United led third-bottom Wigan 1-0 through Chris Wood’s 29th-minute thunderbolt and were still in need of a killer second goal when Monk took off pacy winger Hadi Sacko for a more defensive midfielder in Matt Grimes with 24 minutes left.
United’s no 10, Pablo Hernandez, was then swapped for Alex Mowatt with 16 minutes remaining, before talisman striker Wood was hauled off for Marcus Antonsson with five minutes left.
Leeds still looked on the cusp of a fourth successive home victory – but Wigan then struck a 91st-minute equaliser through Shaun MacDonald at a time when, arguably, United’s three best attacking players were no longer on the pitch.
But ahead of this Saturday’s Championship trip to Wolves, Monk was happy to provide a detailed explanation to his thinking at Thursday afternoon’s press conference – confirming that both Sacko and Hernandez were carrying knocks and that Wood had “physically given everything” despite having had no rest from football while away with New Zealand in the recent international break.
Tactically, Monk also reasoned that he had to weigh up the risk of seeking a killer second goal and being caught out at the back with attempting to shore up United’s midfield with the introduction of Grimes at a time when he said Wigan pressure was inevitable with nothing to lose.
Monk explained: “In terms of Hadi we have one decision. We either leave Hadi on and hope that we get a break-away and possibly get the second goal.
“But with the way the game had gone, we hadn’t taken those chances so you couldn’t rely on that and then they put the fourth midfielder on in Jordi Gomez and they were overrunning us at that stage.
“So you make a decision – either you put an extra midfielder on or you leave Hadi on and, of course, Hadi before the game was a slight injury doubt.
“I think physically he was dropping so the decision is made to put an extra midfielder on.
“With Pablo, Pablo had a dead leg and you could see that he was struggling physically and we made the change with Mowy.
“And then Woody I think physically had given everything in that game.
“He has not had a break in the international break and you make that change.
“You make those decisions for those reasons and they are always with the best intentions, with the correct knowledge and the understanding of where you feel the game is.
“Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but I think when you actually look at the game, they didn’t have one shot on target in that last 20 minutes – they didn’t have a shot on our goal. So in terms of did it work, well it did, apart from a set-piece. It’s like you are damned if you do or you don’t.”
Asked if he would make the same three substitutions again, Monk reasoned: “Yes. Because I felt that’s where the game was at that moment.
“But that’s me with all the information – knowing my team, knowing how that works and those moments having experienced it and looking at the opposition and what they have done to try and gain that upper hand and throwing caution to the wind which is very difficult to defend against.”
He added: “And then you have those split seconds or minutes to make those decisions but you always make the decision with the right intention that you feel for the team.
“If you go back to the Barnsley game, we were 2-0 up and we make an attacking option with Marcus coming on to send a message to the team that we wanted to go and attack even more. The flip side of it is that you always make those decisions on account of where you are in a game and how the feel of the game is.
“It wasn’t a message to send to the team of ‘we have to settle for what we have got’ but I could see that the team were naturally in that phase where they were defending now and we had to then assess that they had brought an extra midfielder on so we have to make those decisions.
“Are we really going to go and get the dominance back? Probably not in those moments because of the way the team psychologically is in that game because they are winning.”