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If Ronaldo Vieira is fit he must not sit

Best-named footballer in England finally got a start in the Championship in Leeds 3-0 win over Bristol City

Leeds United v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

One of the highlights of last season had to be the rise of young Ronaldo Vieira, the best-named footballer in all of England. While he wasn’t necessarily supposed to really play very much, he ended up one of the regulars in the midfield for Garry Monk. After being named the Young Player of the year for Leeds last year, he went to the Toulon Tournament to represent England last summer. One of the first things that the new Director of Football Victor Orta did was to sign Vieira to a new contract.

So after a breakout year, it was a little surprising to see Ronaldo Vieira not even make the bench for the first game of the season against Bolton Wanderers. Christiansen explained that he was injured, but he would be included in the future.

Only he wasn’t.

Vieira played very well in the League Cup win over Port Vale, although his play was overshadowed by Samu Saiz’s hat-trick. He scored a goal against Newport County and went the full 120 minutes against Burnley in Leeds United’s penalty win.

However, as good as he was in the League Cup, his absence was almost inexplicable for the Championship matches. He had only made three appearances, all as a substitute, and had played a grand total of 54 minutes in the league before the Bristol City match.

Fans were perplexed as to why Vieira was sitting while Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane both started over him. Even after both of them had poor matches during the three match losing streak for Leeds in October, Vieira still sat. A clue as to his status was revealed after news broke that he would not be joining the England U20s during the most recent international break.

Vieira wasn’t even on the bench for the 1-0 loss at home to Reading FC, and so it was with a sense of relief that Vieira finally appeared in the starting lineup against Bristol City. And what a return he had. He had a remarkable match for Leeds in the middle of the pitch, earning praise from not only Leeds fans and pundits, but also from the opposing manager, Lee Johnson.

Vieira said after the match that he had been playing through a bit of an injury, so at least it appears that Christiansen hasn’t frozen him out. But if he’s fit, he has to start the rest of the way, doesn’t he?

Vieira provides a little more muscle and defensive responsibility than Phillips and O’Kane, and his showing against Bristol City showed what Leeds have been missing in midfield this season. Vieira is an important cog for Leeds and is one of the best young players in the country, and should be first choice if he’s fit. The formation is not as important as the players playing in them, and Christiansen has shown a remarkable amount of flexibility in trying to get the right mix of players. Here’s hoping that Vieira will get the start against Sheffield United on Friday night.