When it was first rumoured that Leeds United were in the market for Marcelo Bielsa as their head coach there was silence, stunned silence.
This was followed by a series of deep intakes of breath, subsequently followed by excited whoops and a’hollerings.
To get a coach of Bielsa’s calibre, for a side that has also employed the likes of David Hockaday and Darko Milanic, was astounding and certainly a head-rattling moment. Since then, Bielsa has come to Elland Road and reinvented the way that the Whites play their football.
Gone has the hit it long, lump it upfield and hope approach. Instead, in its place, United play a Premier League-style game where the ball is stroked out from the back and quickly worked upfield. The change in the style of play is startling, it truly is.
Yet, it’s not only the game plan that has improved under Bielsa’s tutelage and management; players have improved too. Amongst these players reinvented by Marcelo Bielsa, one stands out the most prominent – Kalvin Phillips.
Phillips is a local lad, born and bred in the city and one who graduated through the youth ranks at Elland Road. He was promising before Bielsa’s arrival and was already established as a goal-scoring midfielder in the Leeds United first-team set-up.
However, Bielsa came in, put an Argentinian arm around his shoulder and said: “Kalvin, I want you to move back a bit and become a defensive midfielder.” Phillips said: “Yes Jefe.” The rest is history because Marcelo Bielsa’s decision and foresight has turned the likeable Leeds lad into one of the Championship’s most valuable and sought after youngsters.
One side said to be ramping up their interest in Phillips are Leeds United’s bitter rivals from across the Pennines, Manchester United. That is something that we wrote about here on The72 a few days ago.
It was a link that drew a reaction from Leeds United fans, fans who don’t want to see such a prize asset as Phillips leave the club and definitely not to Manchester United. It is still something that nags at some, causing them to ask questions.
Here’s what Sun reporter Alan Nixon thinks in a retweeted reply to a question about the Phillips/Manchester United situation:
Watching. Won’t be moving next window though. https://t.co/2lcKlX7oNF
— Alan Nixon (@reluctantnicko) October 30, 2019
Whilst Phillips leaving Elland Road for Old Trafford is up in the realm of dreams and imagination at the moment, Nixon’s reaffirmation that Manchester United are “watching” is still ominous. Even the “won’t be moving next window” doesn’t offer that much consolation to Whites fans.