Marcelo Bielsa admitted that the intelligence of Pablo Hernandez had been crucial after two assists from the fit-again Spaniard guided Leeds United back to the top of the Championship.
Hernandez marked his first start for two months by laying on goals for Kemar Roofe and Liam Cooper as Leeds took apart a troubled Ipswich Town team and reclaimed first place with a 2-0 win.
Bielsa lost Hernandez to a hamstring strain in August and the midfielder missed seven matches before returning as a late substitute in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
United’s head coach turned to him from the outset at Elland Road this evening and Hernandez, who has had a hand in seven league goals already, laid on the opener for Roofe on 22 minutes and drew a fine finish from club captain Cooper midway through the second half.
Ipswich - trapped at the bottom of the division - had no answer to Leeds’ growing intensity and saw Gjanni Alioski hit the inside of a post in the latter stages.
Asked to rate Hernandez’s influence, Bielsa said: “He was very important in today's game. He played as if he had not been injured. He was very intelligent.”
Bielsa had expressed concern about the form of his side in the aftermath of their loss at Blackburn, unhappy with a run of two wins from eight games, but their confidence returned after half-time as Ipswich fell tamely to a seventh defeat.
“It was a necessary win and a deserved one too,” Bielsa said. “There were two different halves and in the second half we had fluidity which we didn't have in the first half.
“Our team was constantly offensive and we had 10 clear chances to score a goal. In the first half we spent many minutes not playing. We had the obligation to change this and make the right pass. If we do this, we play.”
Ahead of the game, Bielsa described Leeds' position in the Championship - fifth before kick-off - as a “lost opportunity", raising the stakes for their meeting with Ipswich.
West Bromwich Albion’s 4-1 defeat to Derby County allowed United to top the division on goal difference, level with Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and Bielsa said: "It's always important to be first.
"I always feel pressure because I always think it’s necessary to win. It’s very hard to win which is why I always put pressure on.”
Leeds, however, suffered a further injury set-back after Gaetano Berardi limped out of the first half in only his second game since recovering from a knee problem.
Bielsa said Berardi had sustained a “muscular injury” and the defender will be assessed in the next 24 hours.