Marcelo Bielsa has contested a claim made by Fulham manager Scott Parker that Leeds players make “scripted movements” and play without the freedom they would get at other clubs.
United sit five points clear of the third-placed Cottagers ahead of the midweek round of games in the Championship but, despite overcoming their early 2020 wobbles in the last three games, there is a school of thought that Leeds should have a bigger advantage over the chasing pack.
One accusation fired at Leeds is their inability to convert the numerous chances that fall their way but, despite Bielsa’s style very visibly imposed on his Leeds side, he insists his players are ‘not robots’ and are allowed to play with the freedom and moments of brilliance as seen by Pablo Hernandez in the weekend win over Reading.
“I think that the players are machine is maybe to underestimate them, it’s not convenient to think like that,” Bielsa said when told about Parker’s claim.
“When you lead a group of players it’s linked mainly with the human aspect. And nobody treats players as machines. From my point of view you can develop leadership long-term.
“In the enterprise maybe they interpret people as machines but they are mechanic activities that admit this kind of treatment from people. I don’t agree with this. But I cannot give an opinion on activities I don’t know.
“But what I believe in football, the leadership is one of the more important human activities. To summarise one idea a lot of times someone could describe a team as a machine, describing players as robots, that a team works very well, because collectively it’s well-oiled.”
Parker’s comments were meant as a compliment given Leeds’ pleasing-on-the-eye passing style and Bielsa, who also assessed Kalvin Phillips and Kiko Casilla’s prospects of facing Middlesbrough on Wednesday, continued: “I’m grateful for what those managers said but important to think is that the player is happy inside himself to be able to show his skills. Football is a creative activity and it’s not regular because human beings are not regular in their behaviours. But some people talk in general describing a player as a machine.”
Meanwhile, former favourite Gary McAllister has become the latest former player to purr over Leeds’ performances under Bielsa, but has explained why the pressures on them to secure promotion are greater than that of their rivals.