Marcelo Bielsa explained how Leeds struggled, but did not think it was due to individuals, in their opening loss to Manchester United.
It was far from the ideal start to the season for Leeds. After suffering a 6-2 defeat on their last visit to Old Trafford, they were comfortably beaten again, this time suffering by a margin of 5-1.
Leeds were 1-0 down at half-time and equalised early in the second half via a Luke Ayling rocket. But it didn’t take long for their rivals to get back on top, scoring three goals in eight minutes. Then, a fifth Man Utd goal came in the 68th minute to take the game further beyond Leeds’ reach.
It means Bielsa’s side will have to wait to get some points on the board in their second season back in the Premier League.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Bielsa admitted: “It was very difficult for us to recover the ball and very difficult for us to create danger.”
Indeed, their opponents were in fine form, with Paul Pogba stealing the show thanks to a four-assist haul. But Bielsa did not think individual brilliance was where the game was won or lost.
He said: “It was for a number of reasons more than the high press or individual performance of a single player.”
One player who could have made the difference for Leeds was Kalvin Phillips. However, the midfielder was an unused substitute.
Bielsa once again denied Phillips’ absence was the sole cause of Leeds’ loss, while admitting the Euro 2020 star still needs further preparation.
“Phillips always shines. I don’t think it’s a question of individualities as to why we couldn’t play a more balanced game.
“There’s no new injuries I’m aware of at the moment. Kalvin’s always in consideration to be a starter, but his lack of preparation hindered him.”
Bielsa defends Koch performance
Despite refusing to pin the blame – or credit for their opponents – on individuals, Bielsa did defend the performance of Robin Koch.
The German defender had to cover in midfield in Phillips’ absence and it was not an easy task for him to fulfil. But Bielsa did not criticise him.
On the contrary, he said: “I liked how he played.
“He was a dynamic player, he was present. He was willing, committed, he made lots of efforts and he had presence throughout the game.”