Simon Grayson admitted to being “embarrassed” to have seen his Leeds team in the bottom three of the npower Championship, and hailed the 4-1 win over Hull that took them out of it as “massive”.
Two defeats from their opening two games, two red cards, some chaotic defending and off-field protests against chairman Ken Bates meant United went into last night’s clash under more scrutiny than they would have liked.
But an early goal from Ross McCormack settled the nerves and, although Tom Lees put through his own net to bring Hull level, goals from Lees - at the right end - Robert Snodgrass and Ramon Nunez helped to lift some of the tension around Elland Road.
“I’m delighted after losing our first two,” the Whites manager, in his 300th game as a boss, said. “We knew it would be difficult after Hull had a good result at the weekend (winning at Ipswich), but we were good with and without the ball and made a really good Hull team look ordinary at times.
“The players were excellent from start to finish. It’s great for the players. They showed tremendous spirit, great attitude, belief and confidence.
“The results we have had could have had a negative effect. We were down to the bare bones tonight, with no strikers, (Jonny) Howson and (Max) Gradel suspended and (Leigh) Bromby and (Ben) Parker injured,
“So it’s a massive result. It’s embarrassing when you see your team in the bottom three, but I had immense belief and confidence in the players to get results.”
Leeds were the better side throughout, with Hull only really creating chances after Nunez’s third of the season with 22 minutes remaining.
Even then, they found Andy Lonergan in impressive form, but not as much as midfielder Adam Clayton, a signing from Manchester City last summer who is now getting his chance after a year out on loan in League One.
“He’s playing with immense confidence and belief,” Grayson said of the 22-year-old.
“He’s comfortable and confident on the ball, he works hard and likes a tackle. He’s grasped his opportunity. He’s a great lad to work with and is going to keep growing as the season goes along.”
Having won at Ipswich on Saturday, Hull arrived at Elland Road well-fancied to leave with a first win there in 24 years.
As it was, they left on the end of their heaviest defeat against the Whites since 1956, and with concerns over their ability to take their chances - a fact previously highlighted in their opening-day loss against Blackpool.
“We shot ourselves in the foot tonight,” said manager Nigel Pearson.
“After they started a bit better than us, once we equalised, I think we were relatively comfortable and looked dangerous.
“But the goals either side of half-time and the fashion in which we conceded them caught us out.
“I can’t keep talking about us creating chances and not taking them. It was a poor result for us, as simple as that. We need to start scoring them, whether that’s with the people we have or with new personnel.
“I need to find some answers.”
Huddersfield Town were held to a goalless draw with Hartlepool in League One while a late Wes Fletcher effort was enough to give Accrington their first win of the season at home to Bradford in League Two.
Sir Bobby Charlton believes Manchester United are well placed to retain the Barclays Premier League title but expects an “exciting” battle with a Sergio Aguero-inspired Manchester City.
City threw down the challenge to the champions on Monday as record signing Aguero enjoyed a sensational debut at the Etihad Stadium.
The £38million summer buy came off the bench to score twice and set up another goal as City launched their campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of promoted Swansea.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were less convincing as they began their quest for a record-extending 20th title with a 2-1 win at West Brom on Sunday, but United legend Charlton is confident enough.
Charlton, 73, said: “He is marvellous, Alex. I don’t know how he does it.
“Every year he comes up with something different - change of coach, change of players - he is just fantastic.
“We are there again, ready for the 20th.”
He added: “Yes, I saw City. I watch all the football.
“The new lad’s played really well. He’ll be a hero.
“He is a class act and Manchester City have the wherewithal to get all the best players.
“But we shall see - it is getting exciting.”