PABLO HERNANDEZ said Leeds United’s Championship rivals would know the Whites would be “difficult to beat” under Marcelo Bielsa after witnessing his side’s energetic 3-1 success at home to Stoke City.
Hernandez’s shot from the edge of the area put United 2-0 up against the division’s title favourites in Bielsa’s first game in charge after a free-flowing United had taken a 15th-minute lead through Mateusz Klich.
The Potters then hauled themselves back into contention when Benik Afobe converted a penalty seven minutes after the break, but Leeds were rewarded for their work-rate and endeavour when captain Liam Cooper restored United’s two-goal cushion with a header from a Barry Douglas corner three minutes before the hour.
After blowing away the division’s title favourites, United’s own odds to win the division were immediately shortened with Leeds now second favourites with some firms behind the Potters.
And while Hernandez was keen to stress the victory against Stoke was “only one game”, the 33-year-old Spaniard admitted his side’s performance would have signalled a clear message to the rest of the division.
“When the other teams see this game, every team will think it is not easy to beat us or to win against Leeds United,” said Hernandez. “We played good but it’s impossible to play good every game.
“But with this attitude and spirit, if one game we can’t play good then we still have the chance to win the game with this work and everybody running and working and helping their team mates. This is the way.”
United’s players have expressed throughout the summer how new head coach Bielsa has put the squad through a hard pre-season to improve their fitness with double sessions the order of the day.
Skipper Cooper admitted in his programme notes before the game that “I can honestly say this has been the toughest pre-season of my career to date.”
United gained instant rewards for their efforts with their high fitness levels extremely apparent as the Whites maintained their impressive high tempo and continued pressing throughout the game.
But with this attitude and spirit, if one game we can’t play good then we still have the chance to win the game with this work and everybody running and working and helping their team mates. This is the way.Marcelo Bielsa
“We have worked hard in these six weeks during the pre-season and we know what Marcelo wants,” said Hernandez.
“I think we showed on the pitch that we play like a team always, in defence and in attack, all together.
“Everybody moves, everybody runs and everybody works for their team mates.
“This is our identity and this was the perfect game for the fans to be able to see this.
“This was a happy day for the club and the fans.”
Reflecting on his own strike and already getting up and running on the goal charts in the very first game, the Spaniard added: “It was a good pass from (Gjanni) Alioski and I didn’t have too much time to think.
“I had a shot and I watched the keeper touch the ball and then the ball went inside.
“It’s important for me always when you start with a goal and when you also get a win it is good for my confidence.
“What’s more important is the three points and that the team win.
“But if you play 90 minutes and I can help the team to win the game with the goal and with my work then this is important for me and for my confidence.
“I am very happy for the goal but more happy for the three points.”