Garry Monk has had a few headaches in his time at Elland Road. But tell us a Whites manager who hasn’t felt like they’ve been banging their head against a brick wall at United over the last two decades as the club lurched from one crisis to another? For once though, Monk will soon have the sort of headache he craves – how to fit club captain Liam Bridcutt and the in-form Kalvin Phillips, October’s EFL Young Player of the Month, into the same starting XI.

Bridcutt has returned to full training after three months on the sidelines with a fractured foot. And while his recovery is a major boost to a boss who’s had to contend with injuries across the board this season, United have surged up the table in absence. Phillips has excelled in midfield and Monk will have to think carefully about not upsetting the balance of the team.

Brought in on loan from Sunderland at the end of November last year, Bridcutt quite often held the side together with his performances in 2015/16. His ability to break up play and take Leeds upfield has seen him likened in some quarters to David Batty – but with Scottish blood and dark hair.

The former Brighton player made 27 appearances across all competitions last term and became something of a fans’ favourite with his work-rate and willingness to get stuck in. His leadership qualities also shone through, hence the decision to hand him the captain’s armband for 2016/17. The 27-year-old international has only managed to lead the side out on four occasions though, after being hurt in the second-half of the 2-1 win over Blackburn in September, and has cut a frustrated figure in the stands.

One thing lacking from Bridcutt’s game is goals. He has shot blanks since his move from the Stadium of Light, and in 210 league appearances since his competitive debut for Yeovil back in 2008, has only managed to score twice.

Once he returns to the side, Bridcutt is probably one to avoid if considering a punt on the first goal-scorer. Even with a number of generous free bet sign-up offers the Kiwi number nine, Chris Wood, is a much better prospect in that respect. Up until 7 December, Wood had found the back of the net 13 times – quadruple that of his nearest team-mate.

Meanwhile, Phillips, aged 21, has managed the same tally as Bridcutt in 30 outings and, at present, looks undroppable. Phillips, a product of the club’s Thorp Arch academy, signed a new three-year deal in the summer and appears to be thriving under the tutelage of Monk who has a reputation for bringing the best out of young players. Back in November he also received recognition for his talent by being awarded the EFL Young Player of the Month Award

The fact that Monk has said he won’t rush Bridcutt back before he’s 100 percent ready shows United are in a good place. While never ones to get ideas above their station, sensibly so given the club’s recent off-field problems, the Elland Road faithful expect nothing less now than a place in the Championship play-offs.

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