AFTER seeing Leeds United end a frustrating run with a captivating 2-1 success against Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at a few talking points from Sunday’s entertaining victory at Elland Road.
Has Thomas Christiansen seen out the storm?
Much was made of the ‘pressure’ United’s head coach Thomas Christiansen was under on the back of seven league losses from nine games, an awful run which led to United plummeting from first to tenth.
But all the noises from Leeds - from owner Andrea Radrizzani, managing director Angus Kinnear and Christiansen himself were that there was a total understanding that the Dane’s appointment and work was part of a long term project at Leeds with his job not dependent on the next result.
That said, there would have been some uncomfortable questions had United lost a fourth game in a row against Boro.
Instead, a much-needed victory provided just the lift that Leeds needed and Radrizzani congratulated Christiansen with a huge warm embrace following the full-time whistle.
Leeds and Christiansen still face a difficult rest of the week with the Whites away at leaders Wolves on Wednesday before visiting bogey team Barnsley on Saturday for a Yorkshire derby in which United have a poor record in.
But even the victory against Boro and the impressive manner of it has gone a large way to silencing any doubters for United’s Danish head coach.
Who will be best equipped to lead United’s strikeforce?
German striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga missed Sunday’s clash with a sickness bug meaning Kemar Roofe was faced with the task of leading United’s line in the lone striker role.
Five-foot-ten Roofe looked to be quite literally facing a tall order against Boro’s commanding centre-halves in six-foot-one Ben Gibson and six-foot-three Daniel Ayala.
But while Roofe not surprisingly failed to cut much ice in any aerial battles, the 24-year-old proved a handful throughout with his movement and pace and the striker played an integral role in playing in Pablo Hernandez to supply the cross for Gjanni Alioski’s strike that put United 2-0 in front.
Leeds looked more mobile with Roofe upfront as opposed to Lasogga and furthermore Caleb Ekuban again looked highly promising when brought on for Roofe with 11 minutes left.
Ekuban, who certainly has the ideal frame to play the lone striker role, also looked blessed with natural pace.
Assuming Lasogga recovers quickly from his sickness bug, Christiansen will have a tough decision to make regards who starts upfront for Wednesday night’s clash at Wolves.
Can Stuart Dallas force his way to starting?
There were naturally plenty of calls for Dallas to start on the left wing after his superb displays for Northern Ireland in the two legs of their World Cup play-off against Switzerland during the international break but the heavy challenge that the 26-year-old received in the first leg ultimately kept him out of the clash against Middlesbrough.
The winger was reported to still be carrying an ankle injury and failed to even make the bench with Alioski and the recalled Hernandez starting on the flanks as Samu Saiz reverted to the no 10 role with Kalvin Phillips dropping back to partner Ronaldo Vieira in centre midfield.
And all five of United’s midfield men had strong games with wingers Alioski and Hernandez netting United’s two goals and vying for man of the match honours.
On Sunday’s evidence, Dallas might still have to do with a place on the bench when he returns.
Irish international midfielder Eunan O’Kane will also face a tough task in winning back his place in the side based on the strong displays of Vieira and Phillips who look to have a natural synergy together in centre-midfield.
There will surely be very few, if any, changes for Wednesday’s trip to Wolves.
Is Pontus Jansson back to his best?
Jansson’s below par form prior to the international break was well documented with the centre-back himself taking to social media to admit his performances were not so good shall we say.
But one week on from seeing his Swedish national side qualify for next year’s World Cup, Jansson put in a commanding display against Boro, looking well on the way to returning to his best.
That return to form would be just what the doctor ordered for United with Jansson and centre-back partner and captain Liam Cooper only denied a clean sheet against big-spending Boro by the dodgiest of penalties in the second half.