It spoke volumes about the quality of Sheffield United's performance against Aston Villa that Chris Wilder did a better job of defending Steve Bruce than his counterpart's own players.
Bruce, who started his managerial career at Bramall Lane during the late Nineties, arrived in South Yorkshire hoping the visitors would produce the perfect riposte to questions about their own promotion credentials and his own leadership skills.
Instead, after admitting even the 4-1 scoreline probably did not reflect United's superiority, what the 57-year-old got was the type of result which will see him come under even greater scrutiny during the international break. So it fell to Wilder, whose team climbed to third in the table after recording a fourth straight win, to dismiss concerns about Bruce's qualities; describing his predecessor as one of the Championship's most experienced and talented coaches.
"We know what it's like to be in their position," Wilder said, reflecting on the challenges United faced before gaining promotion from League One. "We know how they feel because we had it down there, when everyone was shooting at us, when we were the big club and were expected to stroll it and steamroller everyone. In those situations, you are only ever a couple of games from what some people reckon is a crisis but I don't subscribe to that at all. Villa have got good players, a damn good manager and we're only six games in. They'll be there or thereabouts."
Although United showed Villa no mercy during the game itself, Wilder used his post-match media conference to apologise to Bruce and the visitors for a comment made by the stadium announce moments before half-time.
"I've dealt with it and it won't happen again," Wilder said. "We're a humble football club and someone got a little bit over-enthusiastic but it's been dealt with, I didn't like it and it won't be happening again."
"It's typical of Chris to apologise," Bruce responded. "I've known him a long time and he's as honest as they come; a humble, down to earth guy. I didn't actually hear it to be fair. I had enough on my plate then without listening to some drivel from a commentator."
With goals from Jack O'Connell, Mark Duffy and Oliver Norwood handing them a 3-0 lead at the break, United put the fixture beyond Villa's reach when Billy Sharp struck early in the second period. Anwar El Ghazi reduced the deficit but, as Bruce acknowledged, his squad deserved nothing from the contest.
"Sheffield United were challengers last year," Bruce said. "They've got a good side and an excellent manager. They'll be force to be reckoned with again. We're Aston Villa and everyone wants to kick our a**e. And we've had our a**e kicked here."
"The social media stuff will start coming out again now," Bruce, who won promotions with Birmingham City and Hull City before returning to the Midlands, added. "They'll be all that stuff about me being a dinosaur and not knowing what I'm doing. Well, the four times I've taken teams out of this division tells me that, actually, I do."