NOT many Manchester United players get a standing ovation at Elland Road but Cameron Borthwick-Jackson bucked that trend.
It was obviously a brave decision by him to move from Old Trafford on a season-long loan to Leeds but the left-back slotted in seamlessly and enjoyed a fine reception when substituted late on as Stuart Dallas was introduced in a bid to unlock the 10-man Preston rearguard.
The 20-year-old, with 10 senior appearances for Manchester United behind him, further endeared himself to the Leeds faithful when he emerged to state that this United squad is capable of going up to the Premier League.
“I think this is a promotion-winning squad and that is what the aim is for this season,” said the defender who had an unsuccessful loan spell at Wolves last season.
Many would query that statement after Leeds huffed and puffed in the last half-hour after Borthwick-Jackson’s fellow Old Trafford product, Ben Pearson, was dismissed for a second yellow card.
In fact, Preston could have grabbed the winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time when another player from the red half of Manchester, Josh Harrop – signed by former Leeds chief Simon Grayson before he left for Sunderland – burst into the area and saw his shot deflected against the bar.
The visitors, victors over Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day, had been indebted to goalkeeper Chris Maxwell when Leeds, who introduced two substitutes as the game’s most effective midfield player, Pearson, trooped off, turned on the pressure.
He denied sole striker Chris Wood, sent through by the probing Pablo Hernandez, in a one-on-one before pulling off a double save from Dallas at the back post and Hernandez’s follow-up volley.
Preston had looked the more dangerous side in the opening half when their own lone striker, Jordan Hugill, outmuscled returning Leeds defender Pontus Jansson before cutting the ball back for Alan Browne, who was only denied by a last-ditch block from Luke Ayling.
The Preston pair combined again straight after the break, this time Liam Cooper surrendering possession to Hugill’s strong challenge before Browne scuffed his shot from close range, allowing Felix Wiedwald to gather.
In a game where robust challenges had players crumpling to the ground, Leeds looked over-anxious in their attempts to impress in front of a crowd approaching 33,000 but Borthwick-Jackson remained upbeat.
“We should have got the three points but a point can be crucial to picking up play-off points and is better than nothing.”
On why Elland Road was the only place to be for him, he said: “It was the history behind the club. It’s a massive club and the way they play suits my style as well. There were a lot of factors but I am just looking forward to playing. There was interest from elsewhere but this is where I wanted to come for the stated reasons.”
Of his home bow, he said: “The atmosphere was class and, obviously, it is good to be playing again and having the manager show faith in me.
“I grew into the game as it went on but it was frustrating to get a little niggle towards the end. I feel I can bring more to the team.”
Of the bitter rivalry with the team from ‘over the tops’ he continued: “I am 110 per cent dedicated to Leeds United for the season and I will do all that I can. I like to get the crosses and tackles in and just do my job.
“Obviously there is a rivalry between the clubs but I am a Leeds United player and I am going to work as hard as I can to get this team where they should be.”
Borthwick-Jackson believes the players will put the frustration of being unable to force a win behind them on Tuesday when Fulham are the visitors. “It’s a big game but we are confident with the squad we have got. We have a good bunch of players and feel we can get the job done. I wouldn’t say we were over-anxious today, we have just to do our jobs.”
Leeds’ squad strength will be a key to the season and the defender added: “You can see the squad rotation the other day (in the League Cup) and the team did not look weaker.
“Everyone is a good player and the squad is incredible so we have to push on. Everyone is frustrated but we have to bounce back on Tuesday and pick up the three points.
“Everyone has gelled well, training is competitive and everyone is trying to make everyone else better players.
“Compared to the Premier League, the games come thicker and faster and it is more physical and that’s what you to get used to – becoming physically and mentally stronger.
Another key to Leeds will be holding on to 30-goal striker Wood as at least four Premier League clubs – Burnley, Stoke, West Bromwich and Swansea –show interest.
Head coach Thomas Christiansen is determined to keep the Kiwi, who is valued at £20m, and said: “There’s no doubt that he’s not going to leave. They can come in with many bids but I want him to stay.”
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Borthwick-Jackson (Dallas 82); Roofe (Saiz 61), O’Kane, Phillips (Vieira 61), Alioski; Hernandez; Wood. Unused substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Anita, Shaugnessy, Ekuban.
Preston North End: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Spurr, Cunningham; Robinson, Pearson, Johnson, Barkhuizen (Harrop 65); Browne (Gallagher 90); Hugill. Unused substitutes: Hudson, Vermijl, Horgan, Davies, Maguire.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland).