While Marcelo Bielsa was asking more of his Leeds United players after the first perfect November in the club’s 100-year history, his Middlesbrough counterpart Jonathan Woodgate was grasping at whatever straws he could after a 4-0 thumping.
There was a chasm of quality between the Whites and their visitors as Leeds went back to the top of the Championship, while Middlesbrough were left glancing over their shoulders again after more positive recent results.
Not everything was quite so black and white, with head coach Bielsa cautioning against people getting carried away by Leeds’s five wins out of five.
“Any part of the competition where you win five matches is always good,” said the Argentinian. “But we also know that we won two matches at the end of each match at Luton and Reading. So there are a lot of details we have to analyse and take into account, not just about winning, how you win every match.”
Similarly, on-loan winger Helder Costa scored his first league goal for the club after a sluggish start to life at Elland Road, but had his boss demanding even more.
“He made a step forward,” was Bielsa’s measured assessment. “He scored, he is developing but he can show more impact to unbalance the game than he showed on Saturday. But every week he is improving.”
The Leeds fans were “unbelievable. Obviously I couldn’t clap them at the time, we were getting beaten.Jonathan Woodgate
Leeds were already firmly on their way to victory by the time Costa netted in the 67th minute. They scored early and late in the first half, through former Boro striker Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich respectively. Klich completed the scoring in the 73rd minute.
Woodgate tried to tell his injury-hit side – who fielded two second-half debutants in Tyrone O’Neill and Ben Liddle – not to get too downbeat losing at the home of “probably the best team in the Championship”. Instead he wants them to focus on winning at the Riverside.
Boro’s last three home games of 2019 are against Charlton Athletic, Stoke City and Huddersfield Town – all in relegation peril themselves.
“We need to win our home games and see what we can do away from home,” he reasoned. “We look forward to the next few games and we have to remain positive.
“I try to be positive with (my players), I can’t knock their effort, they just weren’t good enough on the day. Leeds are a top team, coached by a top, top manager.”
Woodgate, who earned only his third Championship win at home to Barnsley three days earlier, was grateful for the patience of the Boro fans and the kindness of the Leeds supporters, who chanted their former centre-back’s name in the second half.
“The (Boro) fans have been really good to me, I’ve got to applaud them for coming all this way and seeing their team get beaten 4-0 but still staying to the end and applauding the players,” he said. “The fans will stick by you.
“The Leeds fans were unbelievable. Obviously I couldn’t clap them at the time, we were getting beaten. They are a top team and a top club and I wish them all the best and I hope they get to the Premier League because if Leeds United get to the Premier League it will be some train to get on and it will only go one way.
“I know that, I’ve been there with Leeds United, it’s an incredible club.”
Meanwhile, Bristol City chief executive Mark Ashton has hinted the Robins could revive their summer interest in Eddie Nketiah if Arsenal look to move their loan striker on in January.
Nketiah returned from an abdomen injury as a second-half substitute on Saturday, but it has been suggested the Gunners might cut short his stay at Elland Road because he is yet to make a Championship start.
Bristol City had pitched to take the 20-year-old in the last transfer window.
“He’s a very talented player,” said Ashton.
“Should he become available he would be someone we would definitely consider if the fit was right and we were able to do it.”
Match verdict: Page 2