Testing period ahead for United coach Milanic

After three games to have a good look at what he has got and a bit of breathing space to take stock it is time to get serious for Darko Milanic as Leeds United head coach – and he faces a real test of his credentials in the next three weeks.
Darko MilanicDarko Milanic
Darko Milanic

The next batch of matches crammed in before another international break contains some tricky looking tasks and will go a long way to deciding if Milanic has a long term future at Elland Road.

These six matches in 22 days will also point everyone in the direction United are going in and whether it is to be a promotion push or relegation battle to be faced.

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On the evidence so far it could still be either top six or bottom six for the Whites as they have mixed promising performances with awful ones in the first quarter of the season.

With so many new faces on and off the pitch it was perhaps to be expected that things would take time to settle, but some better measure of consistency will now be needed in the next three weeks.

While United are only four points off a play-off place, they have only played two teams from the top eight so far so there are clearly bigger tests round the corner.

First up in the next run of games is a different sort of task as the players have to show they can cope with the heat of a sell-out Yorkshire derby away from home when they go to Rotherham United’s New York Stadium for the first time on Friday night.

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Millers boss Steve Evans will have his team wound up for the match, which will be one of their two “cup finals” for the season – Sheffield Wednesday being their other – and it will be an atmosphere many of the new boys in the Leeds squad will not have come across in their career.

Leeds’ record on their travels in Yorkshire derbies is poor in recent years – everywhere except Doncaster – and they have already experienced a cup defeat at Bradford City so no reminding should be needed of what to expect.

On the pitch United will come up against several former players now plying their trade at Rotherham. Luciano Becchio, however, has been ruled out through an ankle injury.

There will be more ex-Leeds men in the opposition team next Tuesday when United make the long travel to play a Norwich City team that could include Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson.

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The Whites will be looking to overturn recent history as they have only won once in their last 10 visits to Carrow Road. They have an even worse record in away games with Cardiff who they play the following week and with home games to come looking tricky too against Wolves and Charlton sides that have started the campaign well they will do well to still be in touch with the play-off places come November 8 when Blackpool are the visitors to Elland Road.

Head coach Milanic faces a few selection dilemmas for Friday’s game and could have a few more round the corner with central defenders Jason Pearce and Giuseppe Bellusci just one more yellow card away from suspension under the totting up procedure.