Xenia Sports – London
Marcelo Bielsa has fond memories of a previous trip to Old Trafford but the Leeds head coach will draw upon different recollections to inspire his players as they prepare to resume hostilities with Manchester United.
Bielsa was in charge of Athletic Bilbao when they knocked Sir Alex Ferguson’s side out of the 2011-12 Europa League, laying the groundwork for progression to the quarter-finals with a 3-2 victory at United.
While Bielsa cherished the reminder of what took place eight years ago, he is not thinking about using it as a tool to inspire his Leeds players ahead of their first league meeting with United since February 2004.
Instead, Bielsa plans to discuss memories of the fierce rivalries he has encountered in his career, and at the forefront of his mind is the one between his old club Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario in his native Argentina.
“The memories are many,” Bielsa said of Bilbao’s triumph at Old Trafford.
“Initially to the players who produced the performance to the 8,000 Basque fans who attended the game, the image of them being installed to the right hand side of me, I have it installed in my memory.
“That triumph is in the memory of all the Athletic fans and what it has to do with me is it solidified the affection and the link I have with the Athletic fans and the Basque people.
“But I was part of a victory and this victory is less for the protagonists and more for the fans.
“If I had to make a reference of a big rivalry, I would use one of personal experience through the ones I experienced as a Newell’s fan or player against Rosario.
“Leeds doesn’t ignore what it means to play such a game and we’re prepared to adapt to the characteristics that this game will demand. I’ve been here for two-and-a-half years now and I know the immediate history of the club.”
Leeds go into the game at Old Trafford with no new injury concerns following their 5-2 victory over Newcastle in midweek, drawing a line under back-to-back defeats and claiming their first home win in six attempts.
Centre-backs Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are expected to remain sidelined but Pablo Hernandez made his return from injury off the bench at Elland Road on Wednesday.
The midfielder has only made two starts this season and had just eight minutes to make an impression against the Magpies but he still provided the assists for Leeds’ last two goals.
“For any player, it is difficult for them to be a substitute but the prestigious players and those who are idols, it is even more difficult,” Bielsa said.
“Before the start of the competition, nobody can be guaranteed how many minutes they all play. We all understand it is this way and there’s no doubt it is difficult to put into practice in a harmonious way.
“Without doubt it is very difficult to manage this.”
Leeds leapfrogged Newcastle to move up to 13th in the table after overcoming Steve Bruce’s side.
Asked about their progress so far in their first season back in the top flight after 16 years away, Bielsa added: “Seventeen points (from 13 matches) is a decent amount but it wouldn’t have been an injustice to have a few more.”