Steve Bruce backs Leeds United for promotion amid high praise for Marcelo Bielsa
Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce backed Leeds United to win promotion after Marcelo Bielsa’s side ruined his 900th game in management.
Bruce described Leeds as “a very good bet to go up” and admitted his players had been unable to live with their intensity after Jack Harrison’s goal earned United a 1-0 win at Elland Road.
Harrison struck on 65 minutes to settle a derby which Leeds dominated throughout and Bruce - a veteran of four promotions from the Championship - paid tribute to the impact made by Bielsa on a squad who finished 13th last season.
Manchester City winger Harrison was one of relatively few signings made by Leeds last summer in the aftermath of Bielsa’s appointment as head coach.
Bruce was in charge of Aston Villa last term while United limped towards a mid-table finish but Bielsa’s squad are four games away from automatic promotion, with a three-point advantage over third-placed Sheffield United.
Bruce said: “We didn't do enough but sometimes you have to credit the opposition. That's the third time I've seen them and they look a very good bet to go up.
“The transformation with similar players to where they were 12 months ago is remarkable. The intensity they played at, we found it a struggle and overall if I'm being brutally honest the better team won.
“They look a totally different team to where they were 12 months ago. We found it very difficult to play against. They were very good today, I have to say that.”
Bruce, the former Manchester United defender who enjoyed much success at Old Trafford, has come to expect heated welcomes at Elland Road and Leeds was the venue for his 900th match in the dug-out, almost 21 years after he started out in charge of Sheffield United.
Elland Road witnessed an attendance of more than 36,000 and Bruce said: “The way the crowd are reminded me of what it was 20 years ago. You'd fancy them with the four games they've got. With what they've got going for them they've got an outstanding chance.
“What a place to have my 900th game. Abused from the moment I got off the bus! Nothing's changed. I hate to say it but the atmosphere was fantastic.”
Bruce admitted he had gambled on the fitness of Barry Bannan by starting him after a week in which Bannan missed training with a hamstring strain.
Wednesday’s midfield was overrun by Leeds, who produced almost 30 efforts on goal.
“He hadn't trained all week,” Bruce said. “It was a big call for me. Maybe I got it wrong.”