MAYBE it was meant to be that Leeds United should open their campaign in the shadow of a block of flats that once doubled as Nelson Mandela House in the hit TV show, Only Fools and Horses.
Certainly, the final few days of the transfer window are likely to see United’s board having to wheel and deal in true Del Boy style.
Yesterday’s emphatic victory at Bristol City – achieved thanks to goals from Pablo Hernandez, Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison – was thoroughly deserved on the balance of play.
As well as Marcelo Bielsa’s side played, however, there is no hiding the fact that Elland Road badly needs reinforcements after a summer that has seen Jack Clarke, Pontus Jansson, Samuel Saiz and Bailey Peacock-Farrell off-loaded to the highest bidder in true Trotters Independent Traders fashion.
Kemar Roofe is set to join this exodus today in a £7m move to Anderlecht that will leave United’s squad with more holes than Uncle Albert’s string vest.
They need quality. And not of the 42-karat gold variety once hawked around the streets of Peckham from Del-Boy’s suitcase.
Having an XI dripping with as much talent as Leeds had at Ashton Gate is great. But the Championship is a marathon and not a sprint, meaning strength in depth is key.Richard Sutcliffe
The talk is of a forward and goalkeeper being the primary targets. Considering yesterday’s bench featured five youngsters with a combined tally of just five league starts, Leeds surely need more to have any chance of ending what by May will be a 16-year absence from the Premier League.
Having an XI dripping with as much talent as Leeds had at Ashton Gate is great. But the Championship is a marathon and not a sprint, meaning strength in depth is key.
Nevertheless, Bielsa, perched on his bucket opposite the Dolman Stand that backs on to the block of flats better known to the wider world as Nelson Mandela House, must have been pleased by what he saw yesterday from his side.
Employing the same 4-1-4-1 formation that worked so well for so much of last season, the visitors were quickly into their stride.
Hernandez, United’s talisman for so long now, was everywhere. Deployed on the right, the Spaniard kept the City defence guessing by popping up in a variety of positions.
It was this versatility that brought the opening goal. And what a goal it was, as a slick passing move involving Harrison and Barry Douglas saw the ball worked to Adam Forshaw.
He looked up but there seemed little on through the centre. Quick as a flash, however, Hernandez suddenly appeared after darting between Tomas Kalas and Taylor Moore to take up a position inside the ‘D’.
The pass from Forshaw was not great. But Hernandez made light of the bouncing ball to take a touch, turn and then curl a quite exquisite left foot shot beyond Dan Bentley on debut.
Hernandez turned creator 12 minutes into the second half, his quick feet and cross allowing Patrick Bamford to head in from six yards out.
United’s third came via another sweeping move, Stuart Dallas this time charging down the right flank before squaring to Mateusz Klich.
His shot was blocked but Harrison dispatched the rebound in fine style to cap an afternoon that had a plethora of plusses for Leeds.
Phillips, on the radar of several Premier League clubs, was everywhere. Forshaw, too, was full of energy and broke up countless promising moves by the hosts, while at the back Ben White impressed on debut.
The Brighton & Hove Albion loanee was calm and collected on the ball, his partnership with Liam Cooper looking like it was months old rather than just 90 minutes.
City’s attacking threat was sporadic and mainly involved getting in behind the defence down United’s left.
The erratic nature of goalkeeper of Kiko Casilla also meant the Leeds backline could never truly rest. The Spaniard who wreaked so much havoc in the play-off second leg that saw last season’s promotion hopes go up in smoke never truly looked in command of his own actions.
There was one rash dart from his penalty area that saw the ball taken off Andreas Weimann but only just.
Casilla did save brilliantly from Josh Brownhill but the opening had come via his own flap at a cross.
City grabbed a late goal through Weimann, the Austrian exploiting United’s vulnerability down the left by barrelling his way through.
That and the late onslaught it triggered is why Leeds simply must wheel and deal ahead of Thursday’s 5pm deadline.
Bielsa is unlikely to know about the goings-on down Peckham way involving Del Boy, Rodney et al. Any time in front of the television seems to be spent watching either DVDs of old Leeds games or forthcoming opponents.
But if the Elland Road board can get their recruitment right then there is every chance that this time next year Leeds really will be millionaires.
Get it wrong, though, and this week’s purchases turn out to be duds on a par with a Trevor Francis tracksuit from a mush in Shepherd’s Bush, United supporters will be left feeling short-changed.