Leeds United's Daniel Farke gives Luke Ayling the carrot and Charlie Cresswell the stick to make his point

Daniel Farke showed both sides of his man-management in Thursday’s press conference.

It was supposed to preview Saturday's Championship game at Cardiff City but it being January, there was more talk about players' futures.

Normally the manager is straight-forward in his approach – the best interests of Leeds United come first, second and third with him.

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For a club who had already cancelled right-back Djed Spence's loan from Tottenham Hotspur to willingly lose another, vice-captain Luke Ayling, did not meet that criteria but seven-and-a-half years’ loyal service made the 32-year-old an exception.

He was not just allowed to leave, but showered with praise.

If Ayling got the carrot, Charlie Cresswell was beaten in public with the stick.

Injuries to Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper, not to mention the departure of Ayling, often an emergency central defender, should open the door for Cresswell in south Wales.

Farke, however, made clear the 21-year-old will not feature until he gets his head around the Elland Road pecking order and shows acceptance of and enthusiasm for the challenge. Otherwise, he has until 11pm on February 1 to find a club who rates him as highly as he does.

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UNSETTLED: Leeds United centre-back Charlie Cresswell.UNSETTLED: Leeds United centre-back Charlie Cresswell.
UNSETTLED: Leeds United centre-back Charlie Cresswell.

The situation has one thing in common with Ayling's: as Farke said repeatedly, “the ball is in his court”.

“In recent years all the coaches have decided although five or six centre-backs were allowed in our squad to send him out on loan,” began Farke, pointedly. “One of my first decisions was that we don't.

“I knew we had to work with perhaps just four natural-born centre-backs and I wanted Charlie to be one because he's a great character, he's one of our own, he's a young player with potential.

“That's the reason we gave him a long-term contract and to fulfil his wish for the shirt number (five).

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"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Luke Ayling, who has joined Middlesbrough"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Luke Ayling, who has joined Middlesbrough
"LEEDS UNITED LEGEND": Luke Ayling, who has joined Middlesbrough

“I've played a lot with (Joe) Rodon and Struijk and with Pascal not available Liam Cooper because he's our captain, we need experienced players and he's left-footed.

“It ended up with Charlie being our number four centre-back. To have an exciting young centre-back in this position with the chance to improve step by step and bring himself into the starting line-up, for me it's a perfect scenario.

“You could sense Charlie was not overly happy. Sometimes he was travelling with us and I felt he wasn't really switched on and focussed.

“He's a professional but it's not like he's fully committed and fully aware. It was more like, 'What am I doing here? I want to start.'

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“He was great at youth level, he's a player with potential and he knows this. He was one of the best performing players in Millwall's defence (on loan last season) so he has proven already he can be a really good Championship defender but I have to make decisions for Leeds United.

“I said either you find a different club or tell me you’re happy to be number four, totally committed and I know I have to wait for my chance and work for it every day in training and when there is a chance I will play with enthusiasm to perhaps get to the centre-back number three spot and then into the line-up.

“If you think right now you have the right to start ahead of Joe Rodon and Pascal Struijk, it’s not possible. With this mindset you won't.

“He won't be picked by me until he is ready, also mentally ready, for this or there is a different solution.”

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That does not mean Leeds will offload Cresswell on the cheap either.

“We don't present him as a gift,” Farke warned any vultures circling. “We have spent so much time, energy and money on his development, education and contract.

“He's one of our four centre-backs and he judges himself in the top two. Surely if he has this value a club will reach our expectations.”

It was a clunking gear-change from the warm words about Ayling.

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“It's not like our numbers in this position are too big,” argued Farke. “You want to keep a player like Luke Ayling because he's a proven, experienced player at this level and we want to have him as a human being.

“After the Cup game (in Peterborough) he came to see us to ask if he could allow him to move.

“If a player with his CV for this club asks to leave, you have to listen. He has spent more years than I have spent months with the club.

“The club has done a lot for him, but he has given so much back.

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“He was our oldest player, his contact runs out in the summer and he wants to play many minutes because the fire is still burning.

“If I had played him more in the starting line-up in recent weeks he would probably have stayed so I was a little bit responsible.

“He will always be a Leeds United legend so it would not make sense to say we won't allow this and to have him here in a moody mood.”

Darko Gyabi has left on loan for Plymouth Argyle to allow the 19-year-old midfielder to "mature" but for now at least, Joe Gelhardt, is unavailable.

Beyond that, Farke was unwilling to speak too much about transfers. When he does, he makes his point.