Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa exchanged glowing compliments before an intriguing clash between two very different managers at Pride Park.
Leeds United head coach Bielsa – the highest paid boss in the club’s history – described Lampard as “a glory of English football.”
Lampard, meanwhile, said the praise offered by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochetino for former Argentina and Chlie manager Bielsa spoke volumes.
“Great managers in modern football speak about him as a bit of a leader,” said Lampard. “There’s something very special about the way he sets up his teams.”
After witnessing United blow away title favourites Stoke City on the opening weekend Lampard knew Bielsa’s side would attack from the off.
Stopping it, though, proved another matter entirely and Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich said United’s pressing and attacking football under Bielsa was here to stay after a stunning triumph against the Rams.
Klich joined Leeds from FC Twente last summer, but the Pole was loaned out to FC Utrecht back in February after a frustrating first six months under former head coach Thomas Christiansen.
Six months later the 28-year-old has looked like a different player since returning and the midfielder fired United into a fifth-minute lead with a fine curling finish from the outside of the box. Derby equalised just seven minutes later when a piledriver of a free-kick from Tom Lawrence blasted its way past Whites goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell yet United roared straight back with a peach of a header from Kemar Roofe midway through the half.
Leeds continued to run riot after the interval with Roofe adding a superb second shortly after the hour after a neat turn and powerful finish before Gjanni Alioski headed home a Pablo Hernandez cross just four minutes later.
As home fans flocked to the exit gates United were soaring into second place and notably to the front of the bookmakers’ markets to win the division.
“It was tough, we were well beaten by the better team on the day,” admitted Lampard. “There were no surprises, but we didn’t deal with them.”
Bielsa, meanwhile, was naturally keen to keep his side’s feet on the ground.
“What is more important to me is being able to repeat this type of performance,” he said.
“To be enthusiastic you need more time than just two games. If you see the rankings after 23 games or after 46 games you will see differences that invite you to think that any premature analysis is not good.”
Leeds were top after going seven games unbeaten under Christiansen last season only to finish 13th. This, though, felt rather different with Klich admitting United were benefitting from Bielsa’s unique and clearly extremely effective ideas on the game.
“There are not many managers like this who have their own style,” said Klich. “We have to keep playing as we are and be better than our opponents as it’s the only way to win games. He says that if we won’t attack then we won’t win so we just attack. He wants us to push forward, keep pressing and make it very uncomfortable for our opponents. He wants us to not be afraid of the ball and to keep our opponents under attack.”
Reflecting on United’s new mantle as favourites, Klich mused: “Everyone is waiting for the Premier League, but it’s a very long season. We have one goal and everyone wants to be there.
“We’ll see at the end of the season in May. It’s very early and there’s a long way to go. We’re very happy, but we’re not six- or seven-year-old kids. We know what we need to do.”
Derby County: Carson, Wisdom, Keogh, Tomori, Lowe, Ledley (Johnson 45), Bryson, Mount (Bennett 70), Wilson (Jozefzoon 61), Lawrence, Waghorn. Unused substitutes: Roos, Forsyth, Pearce, Marriott.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Cooper, Berardi, Douglas, Phillips, Hernandez, Klich (Shackleton 73), Saiz (Baker 86), Aloski, Roofe (Bamford 78). Unused substitutes: Blackman, Jansson,Roberts, Harrison.
Referee: Peter Bankes.