Thomas Christiansen insisted that Liam Bridcutt was still part of his plans after leaving the midfielder out of Leeds United’s victory over Bolton.
Bridcutt was one of several high-profile absentees on Sunday and did not make the journey to the Macron Stadium after being told by Christiansen that he was set to miss Leeds’ first match of the Championship season.
Stuart Dallas and Ronaldo Vieira also missed out for tactical reasons but both players were present at the ground as Leeds began Christiansen’s reign as head coach with a 3-2 win.
Bridcutt captained United last season following a permanent move from Sunderland but his place has been threatened by the growing number of central midfielders available to Christiansen.
Leeds struck a £1.5m deal for Poland international Mateusz Klich in June and Klich made the bench on Sunday despite missing much of pre-season with a muscle injury.
Bridcutt is less than 12 months away from the end of his two-year deal with Leeds and his absence from the win over Bolton cast doubt over his future but asked if the 28-year-old had a future at Elland Road, Christiansen said: “Yes. I had a talk to him and of course he was disappointed that he wasn’t in the squad but I said to him that the season is long and he will have his time, his opportunity. This is a decision I took in that moment.
“He was the captain last season and he’s still a captain whether he’s in the 11 or the squad because I see him as a player that the other players respect.
“He has the right character or shows the right character in training and on and off the pitch. That will remain the same and I’m happy to have him here.”
Christiansen indicated last week that Vieira, Leeds’ 19-year-old midfield talent, would be held back initially after a busy summer with England’s Under-20s but the omission of Dallas at Bolton was a surprise on the back of the winger’s strong performance in pre-season.
Hadi Sacko was included among the substitutes instead, alongside youngster Conor Shaughnessy who was called upon to cover in the centre of defence after a second-half injury to Matthew Pennington.
Forwards Marcus Antonsson and Souleymane Doukara, meanwhile, failed to secure a place in Christiansen’s travelling party but could be involved in Wednesday’s League Cup tie against Port Vale.
“It’s nothing personal,” Christiansen said. “These are good guys and they could deserve to play in the first XI but these are decisions I had to take. I’m paid for that.”
Centre-back Liam Cooper – the club’s vice-captain last term – skippered Christiansen’s side at the Macron Stadium and Leeds are yet to name a designated captain for this season.
Christiansen revealed on Friday that he had asked his squad to decide a candidate amongst themselves and the United head coach said Bridcutt was one of “several players” who would be considered for the role.
“We have several players who the other players have chosen as their captains,” Christiansen said. “We have three or four who will represent the team. He (Bridcutt) is one of them.”