Jonathan Woodgate hailed Leeds United as “probably the best team in the Championship” after they dismantled his Middesbrough team 4-0 at Elland Road.
Both bosses were magnanimous after the 4-0 victory, Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa pointing to the number of players the visitors had missing, Woodgate speaking warmly about his former club.
Bielsa, though, was reluctant to jump to too many conclusions after his side's biggest win of the season moved them back to the top of the Championship.
“It is not a good idea to give an opinion after a win like this one, when we win by four goals,” he said. “With their full-back, two centre-backs, playmakers, (there were) too many important players out of the team to think that the Middlesbrough we've seen today is the real Middlesbrough.
“But we have to say that from minute 10 to 30, both teams played quite similar. We scored in the beginning of the first half and the end of the first half, sometimes this makes the difference.”
Leeds were all over Boro in the first 15 minutes, having opened the scoring after three through Patrick Bamford. Importantly, they ended the half with a goal from Mateusz Klich.
After that, a team who have not scored the goals their football has merited this season showed a hunger for more, and Helder Costa and Klich gave the scoreline a realistic look.
“We defended very well, we kept discipline in every moment in the game, there was a moment in the first half that we didn't create a lot of chances but we didn't suffer as well,” reflected Bielsa.
“The players they (Middlesbrough) missed were important players and if they had all the players maybe the match would be more difficult. (We showed) a lot of mobility, variety to the attack, we made a lot of effort in defence.
“We recovered the ball quickly, that's a fact, but they had two good strikers in front and those two players today didn't have an impact. Maybe it is because we won the ball quickly and they didn't have much possession. It is possible that how those players have defended avoided the attackers receiving the ball.”
Woodgate clung to the positives but the gulf in class between the sides was painful.
“Leeds are a very good team, really, really good team, probably the best team in the Championship,” said their former centre-back. “The lads kept on going until the end working as hard as they can. We just weren't good enough on the day.
“The positives (for Boro), there were eight academy players in the matchday squad. Tyrone O'Neill coming on, Ben Liddle coming on (both for their Middlesbrough debuts). We're disappointed because you don't want to get beaten but they're a good team.
“I thought Ben was very good. These young lads are just finding their way in the game.
“Tyrone's just come from the National League playing with Darlington and sometimes it's not fair to them for me to do it (pick them).
“No doubt they will be good players in the future but at times it is early to be putting them on.”
Leeds, by comparison, were able to bring the fit-again Eddie Nketiah off the bench, and to give 10 minutes to Ben White in the holding midfield role he may be asked to fill next week, when he is suspended for the trip to Huddersfield Town.
“They've improved their squad massively,” commented Woodgate. “They were able to bring Nketiah on, who's a really good player.
“You've got Patrick Bamford firing on all cylinders, you've got Ben White at the back on loan from Brighton, we haven't got a loan player in, so that says it all really.
“We've lost a lot of players over the summer and replaced them with the three younger players from League One but it is what it is, it's difficult but we keep on going, we keep on fighting, we're positive and the players are positive for the next game, which we have to be.
“Without a doubt we need to do business in January, the chairman will be on the same page as me on that one.”