Marcelo Bielsa refused to take credit for Pontus Jansson’s form but admitted the defender was hitting his peak after watching a man-of-the-match performance from him in Leeds United’s 1-1 draw with Brentford.
Jansson turned in a telling defensive display before coming up with an 88th-minute equaliser as Leeds fought back from a Neal Maupay penalty to level a lively game at Elland Road.
The centre-back, whose partner is due to give birth in the coming days, exposed himself to a possible Football Association charge at full-time by accusing referee Jeremy Simpson of “robbing” Leeds but he took the man-of-the-match award after averting United’s second Championship defeat.
Jansson started this season on the bench having returned from a post World-Cup holiday a week before the campaign began and he sat out of United’s league fixtures until Gaetano Berardi was injured in a 0- draw with Middlesbrough at the end of August.
His influence has been keenly felt since then and Bielsa agreed that Jansson was in top form, though United’s head coach denied that he was responsible for Jansson’s growing influence.
“That he’s playing his best football, yes it’s true,” Bielsa said. “But it’s not because I’m his head coach. If I say that’s the case then I wouldn’t say what I’m thinking.
“I don’t think you should take my opinion seriously because I don’t know all his football history but we can say for sure that he’s playing at a high level.”
Bielsa also thanked Stuart Dallas for making himself available on Saturday’s amid concern that a training ground injury would rule the winger out.
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Dallas was drafted in at left-back by Bielsa after Barry Douglas pulled a hamstring earlier in the week but he became a late doubt following a stomach problem sustained at Thorp Arch on Friday.
The Northern Ireland international injured an oblique muscle just 24 hours before kick-off but put himself forward to play despite Bielsa believing the issue would prevent him from starting against Brentford.
United’s head coach had resolved to promote Dallas to his line-up ahead of youngster Tom Pearce following the loss of Douglas to injury towards the end of last Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Hull City.
Dallas completed 70 minutes against Brentford before Bielsa replaced him with 17-year-old debutant Jack Clarke.
Bielsa said: “I would like underline the behaviour of Dallas. In the training session (on Friday) he hurt himself and very few players suffering from such an injury are able to play in a game.
“I’m very thankful for his physical courage and his decision to play.”
Dallas has already missed a short period of this season with a thigh problem and an extensive injury list is depriving Bielsa of numerous senior players.
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Four of his absentees - Douglas, Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi - are targeting comebacks when Leeds resume their season after the international break away at Blackburn Rovers on October 20.
Roofe, Hernandez and Berardi are likely to be used in forthcoming Under-23s fixtures as Bielsa attempts to improve their match fitness ahead of the trip to Ewood Park.
Dallas was due to link up with Northern Ireland’s squad for UEFA Nations League matches against Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the next fortnight and will travel as planned for assessments by the province’s medical staff.
Clarke, meanwhile, was given his first taste of senior football on Saturday having been on the fringes of Bielsa’s plans ever since the Argentinian was appointed as head coach.
The teenager turned professional last November but quickly attracted attention in United’s development squad and was drafted into Bielsa’s matchday squad last month amid a growing number of absences.
Bielsa introduced him for the final 20 minutes against Brentford with Leeds fighting to recover from Maupay’s 62nd-minute penalty.
“I’m really happy with his performance,” Bielsa said. “He entered a game which was very difficult but he didn’t have any problem in expressing himself."