90min

Leeds' Hammering at Manchester United Is All Part of the Marcelo Bielsa Experience

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Results like this will always happen when teams are managed by Bielsa
Results like this will always happen when teams are managed by Bielsa / Pool/Getty Images
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Leeds' agonising 16 year wait to face their bitter rivals, Manchester United, in the Premier League finally came to an end on Sunday.

However, when the final whistle was blown, many Whites supporters may have been wishing they were made to wait a little longer. The Red Devils put their visitors to the sword 6-2 at Old Trafford and in truth, it could have and perhaps should have been more.

It's natural after results like this that Marcelo Bielsa's methods should be called into question. Against United, Leeds were torn apart as easily as wet tissue paper. Their midfield was non-existent, with Scott McTominay being made to look like prime Zinedine Zidane as he galloped into the acres of space either side of Kalvin Phillips.

Leeds' last line of defence was similarly suspect, parting like the Red Sea whenever a United shirt came near. Even Daniel James - who was without a goal since the beginning of last season before the game - managed to score.

After the final whistle, those who refuse to worship at the alter of El Loco were quick stick the knife in, comparing Bielsa's charges to the Norwich side of last season. In other words, easy on the eye but hopeless. A team more focussed on 'winning the argument' about the 'right way to play' than winning football matches.

Perhaps they have a point. The six Leeds shipped on Sunday took them to 30 Premier League goals conceded this season. That's more than anyone else in the division.

It was one to forget for Leeds
It was one to forget for Leeds / MICHAEL REGAN/Getty Images

Prior to United having a field day, Leicester, Crystal Palace and Chelsea have all been beneficiaries of Leeds' tendency to leave mountains of space for the opposition to surge into.

But this is only one side of the coin.

Sure, Bielsa's merciless, high octane, heavy pressing style can occasionally led to nightmares like the United game. On the other hand, it can also led to football at its most devastating.

Take Leeds' most recent game prior to the Old Trafford debacle. Against Newcastle, they were extraordinary. Every time they attacked, they looked like scoring. At times it looked as though they were 100 Whites player on the pitch, not 11.

They thoroughly deserved their 5-2 win.

This was not an isolated incident either. Previously this season, Aston Villa and Everton have suffered similar fates and few teams have given champions Liverpool a better game so far. No one has scored more in the bottom half of the table as well.

These two extremes are the essence of Bielsa's Leeds in the Premier League. Its a delicate balancing act between the sublime and the ridiculous. It is how their manager has always operated and he will not be changing his ways now.

Bielsa's Leeds are far more likely to inspire poetry than Steve Bruce's Newcastle, despite their league positions
Bielsa's Leeds are far more likely to inspire poetry than Steve Bruce's Newcastle, despite their league positions / Pool/Getty Images

Nor should he. Leeds knew exactly what they were getting when they hired him. He is a footballing zealot, fervently committed to his attacking style and the fans absolutely love him for it.

Without wanting to sound like that guy, anyone criticising Leeds' for their poor defensive record just doesn't get Bielsa. For right or for wrong, he is a man who would sooner get relegated than sacrifice his footballing principles.

This means that results like the one against United are not only possible, but necessary to get the full El Loco experience.


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