Neil Warnock predicted that Leeds United would be “back in the big time” within two years as he admitted defeat in his own attempt to guide the club into the Premier League.
Warnock spoke out in support of United’s Dubai-based owner GFH Capital as a heavy FA Cup loss at Manchester City prompted the 64-year-old to admit that his time at Elland Road was almost at an end.
GFH Capital has been in charge of United for a little over eight weeks following its buy-out of chairman Ken Bates but the private equity firm is already facing a critical spell of ownership with Warnock conceding that Leeds are now in the market for a new manager.
United’s owner has contended with fierce scrutiny of its financial strength and long-term plans, and recent investment offers have prompted speculation that the company is already considering selling a majority stake in Leeds. The firm has denied those claims.
Promotion, meanwhile, appears to have escaped Leeds for another season but Warnock, whose continuing employment was a confirmed part of GFH Capital’s deal when its takeover went through on December 21, said: “In fairness to the new owners, they’ve said all along to me that they couldn’t do it quickly.
“They wanted to do it the right way, have a look and then decide what they were going to do investment-wise.
“There’s gossip and rumours everywhere about them but if it’s done in the correct way, in two years it’ll be a fabulous club. I don’t think they’ll have long to wait.
“It’s a great club and in the next couple of years I’m sure they’ll be back in the big time. They’ll make some noise.”
Warnock, however, took a swipe at comments from United director Salem Patel claiming Leeds would look for a younger manager than him, saying: “That rules (Sir Alex) Ferguson out, doesn’t it? He won’t be coming over the Pennines.”
But Warnock refused to be critical of United’s supporters, despite suffering sustained abuse from a following of 6,100 during a 4-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to get used to that,” he said. “Nobody wants that and I don’t think I deserve that. Not after the year I’ve had here.
“But they’re so desperate to get back in the big time and when they see the opportunity gradually failing, the manager’s got to be the scapegoat.
“He’s the focal point because There’s nobody else at the club.
“They were fantastic, like they are for every away game. Our fans could be top six in the Premier League.
“But I came here at a difficult time and with what’s gone on behind the scenes, I think I deserve a medal.”
United’s fifth-round tie against the Premier League champions City was no contest, with City killing the game through a fifth-minute strike from Yaya Toure and a Sergio Aguero penalty on 15 minutes, awarded by referee Mark Clattenburg for a minor pull of Aguero’s shirt by Tom Lees.
“Tom was distraught and I think Mark will be disappointed when he sees it,” Warnock said. “It’s not a foul.
“But all credit to the lads. Two-nil down against a team like that with the quality they’ve got – it would be quite easy to throw the towel in.
“You’ve got to show your mettle and we didn’t fold.
“They were just too good for us. Those two early goals killed the game.”