It’s fair to say that, after Leeds United‘s controversial defeat at home to Derby County last night, United boss Thomas Christiansen was almost speechless with frustration and anger at some of the decisions made by match referee Simon Hooper. If anything, that’s an understatement. I’ve rarely seen a manager so upset and so clearly having to choose his words carefully. Even after his stint at the post-match press conference was done, Christiansen lingered, still speaking to the assembled reporters about two pivotal penalty decisions: “You saw the situations – didn’t you?” There was sympathy in the room, but also a sense that here was a man starting to be bowed down by the pressure that goes with the Elland Road hot seat.
On a night when former United manager Simon Grayson got the boot at Sunderland, his was a name being whispered in the West Stand corridors following a third successive home defeat for Leeds. Christiansen pronounced himself happy that an additional coach – Gianni Veo, touted as a “set piece coach” – is joining the Leeds backroom staff, though he didn’t claim to have been a party to that recruitment decision. It might be premature to say that the future is bleak for the Leeds manager, but it is at the very least uncertain; we can be sure that results need to pick up sharply in the very near future, starting at Brentford on Saturday in what Christiansen aptly describes as a “must-win game”.
Objectively, the performance of referee Hooper was poor; Derby’s penalty didn’t stand much scrutiny and, arguably, Leeds should have gone in at half time two up with a penalty of their own to add to Pierre-Michel Lasogga‘s 8th minute opener. In the event, both decisions went against United, a situation most Leeds fans will be wearily familiar with especially if they’ve been watching the Whites over the past five decades. I actually put this to Christiansen as he left the press conference – he just sighed and replied “This must stop”.
Given that one man may not be able to alter the course of so much history, though, it’s down to the players and the coaching staff to make Leeds a threatening team once again, miserly in defence and productive in attack. That’s what we got in the early part of the season, and it did seem that Leeds were back at it against Bristol – but since then, they’ve gone back into their shell when hosting Sheffield United and Derby. Poor refereeing decisions notwithstanding, Leeds must shoulder their portion of blame for the results that have befallen them.
After the Brentford match on Saturday, there’s yet another international break – the chance, perhaps, for new coach Gianni Veo to make his mark on at least United’s dead ball situations. How good it would be to follow up on a promising away showing at Bristol, with another winning performance and three points at Griffin Park. Not only good, indeed, but potentially vital, at least for Thomas Christiansen. And you can be sure nobody appreciates that more than he does.