Match report: Leeds United 1 Sheffield United 2 - King David puts Blades on Championship throne
Thomas Christiansen might have been guilty of exaggeration when, speaking earlier in the week, he described this fixture as a 'six point' game.
But it was a sign that, like so many of his counterparts across the division, the Leeds manager thinks Sheffield United are equipped to mount a serious challenge for promotion between now and May.
After climbing to the top of the Championship table thanks to strikes from Billy Sharp and, following Kalvin Phillips’ equaliser, young David Brooks, plenty more people will begin believing too.
Perhaps even Chris Wilder who, publicly at least, described his side’s performance as “a little disappointing.”
“I’ve got to admit, I thought we deserved it,” Wilder, the United manager insisted.
“But I thought we could have played a lot better.”
Sharp endured a frustrating 11 months at Elland Road before embarking upon his third and most successful spell with United two-and-a-half seasons ago.
He certainly seemed intent on showcasing the talents which the likes of David Hockaday and Darko Milanic failed criminally to harness on his first return since heading back to Bramall Lane.
Indeed, after scoring his sixth goal of the season and 24th in only 37 games, Sharp will have been desperately disappointed not to have claimed a first-half hat-trick as last term’s League One title winners proved their lofty status is no fluke.
But it was Brooks who delivered the victory which saw Wilder’s side seize pole position from Wolverhampton Wanderers to spark delerious scenes among their travelling support.
As Leeds enjoyed their best period of the contest and the action became increasingly stretched, the 20-year-old’s mixture of speed, skill and evasiveness appeared exactly what was required if United were to wrestle back control.
So it proved when, with only five minutes remaining and Leeds edging towards a draw they would have scarcely warranted, Brooks breezed into position after being released by Mark Duffy before beating Andrew Lonergan with a perfectly-placed shot into the bottom corner.
His first senior goal for United could, even if he scores another 100, turn out to be the most important given the psychological implications of this result.
Last night’s match had been portrayed as a clash of styles, with Wilder’s phrase “old school is the new school” recycled more times than an old music hall joke.
It was a line which, despite paying tribute to United’s combative qualities, did little justice to the quality which exists within their ranks.
Sharp provided a timely reminder with an early goal which laid the foundations for this predictably raucous Yorkshire derby.
Nevertheless, the markedly different journeys Wilder and Christiansen have taken to their respective clubs can not be denied.
The latter had just joined Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona when Wilder found himself at Rotherham following the end of his first spell as a player at Bramall Lane.
Training alongside the likes of Pep Guardiola, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov provided Christiansen with a wonderful insight into the more artistic aspects of the game.
But there was a suspicion among the visitors that, after electing to overhaul the way Leeds go about their business, his side has a soft centre which more purposeful teams can exploit.
United’s theory certainly proved correct until Phillips dragged the hosts level with his fifth of the campaign.
It was an impressive finish from the youngster but completely against the run of play.
Indeed, Wilder’s only complaint at that stage of the contest will have been that, after Sharp had broken the deadlock, United did not establish a more commanding lead.
Leon Clarke, producing another industrious shift alongside his captain, enjoyed an opportunity to do exactly that after a delightful interchange between Sharp and Duffy prised apart the hosts’ defence.
It was not the first or the last time Leeds’ rearguard found itself all at sea as a combination of organised defending and inventive attacking play saw United threaten to overwhelm Christiansen’s charges before Phillips pounced when a cross from Ezgjan Alioski was only half cleared by Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Only a superb reaction save from Lonergan, clawing the ball away to safety as it spiralled through the air, prevented Sharp from extending United’s advantage as he stretched to connect with Clarke’s drive across the six yard box.
Lonergan came to Leeds’ rescue again moments before the interval although Sharp, who somehow found himself unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, really should have scored. Leeds improved after the break with Samuel Saiz, the former Atlético Madrid midfielder, seeing a looping shot bounce back off Jamal Blackman’s left-hand upright from just outside the penalty area.
Clarke responded by attempting to thread a close range effort between Lonergan and the near post after ghosting in from the touchline but it was Brooks, five minutes after replacing Sharp, who produced the coup-de-grace.
Leeds United: Lonergan, Ayling, Pennington, Cooper (Jansson 56), Anita (Grot 83), Lasogga, Alioski (Hernandez 69), O’Kane, Saiz, Phillips, Viera. Not used: Wiedwald, Roofe, Dallas, Shaughnessy.
Sheffield United: Blackman, O’Connell, Basham, Carter-Vickers, Baldock, Stevens, Coutts, Fleck, Duffy (Lundstram 85), Clarke, Sharp (Brooks 74). Not used: Moore, Donaldson, Wright, Lafferty, Carruthers.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland).