Pragmatism is key to second season but Manchester United clash is no Leeds United 'free hit' - David Prutton

Leeds United’s second season back in the Premier League starts with today’s clash at arch rivals Manchester United which is a proper football match.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 4:45 am

This is what football at the top level in this country is all about – two big clubs going at it.

Recent history suggests that Man U are the bigger entity but that doesn’t mean they will be ahead of Leeds after 90 minutes.

What we saw from Leeds in the improvement between the two results against the Red Devils last season showed there was a learning curve.

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TOGETHERNESS: From Leeds United throughout the club's first season back in the Premier League and a quick case of improvement after the 6-2 loss at Manchester United, above. Photo by NICK POTTS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

But this is not a game where it’s a free hit and it’s a game in which Leeds should feel confident enough to get something out of, because of what they want from themselves over the course of a season.

I always go on about consolidation and I still believe that. But there will be people in and around the Leeds hierarchy and fans or the majority of fans that think now that we have got our feet back under the table, let’s crack on and reintroduce ourselves to the world of top-level football and show everybody what Leeds United is about.’

Hopefully that’s what it should be.

Manchester United have given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a new contract so they have backed him and they have brought players in.

There’s some stellar talent that Leeds are going to be up against but Marcelo Bielsa has shown on a game by game basis that he can set up a team to beat anyone in the Premier League which is what they did on their day last season.

This is no time to be timid if you are in the Leeds squad.

Junior Firpo is the only new face so far this summer but based on last season, with a relatively lean squad, Leeds did fantastically. But it’s at the mercy of form and fitness.

If you get key players injured that are very much part of how Marcelo works and who set the standard and the tone then it becomes a different entity altogether.

This a real test of these players as at first it was about bringing them together and playing under the weight of expectation in the Championship.

Then it was about getting promoted and then it was about how they performed in the Premier League.

Now there is an assumption and an expectation having done it for one season of going on to be those type of players where you get four, five, six or seven years out of, in the Premier League at a very decent standard.

It’s a question of not being one season wonders where suddenly the second season becomes very tough and suddenly you are chasing your tail with regards to recruitment thinking ‘we have stood by these players that did so well getting us back in here and consolidated and now we need to improve on the back foot.’

That’s why recruitment and management and leadership of a football club is such a fine balancing act.

Leeds have had to be very well coached and have players playing out of their skin but the collective has been better than the sum of its parts.

That’s what Leeds have managed to do so well. They have managed to create a team and a club and a squad where everybody is on exactly the same page and the additions have to be done in the right manner and the right way.

If you can add to the existing quality with players that can hit the ground running then you have always got to be open minded for that at the right price but not just for the sake of getting numbers in.

Anything around where Leeds finished last season or anything above that would be unbelievably amazing.

There are examples of teams that have come up and consolidated and gone on and there are examples of teams that come up, do well, fall away and end up where they started.

But knowing Leeds United as an entity including the fans, they will want and expect the absolute best.

That is absolutely their prerogative and the right thing to do if you are a fan or a follower.

If you have dedicated your life to following this team through thick and thin then you should expect the absolute best.

But there has got to be a slight air of pragmatism that comes from the management and the players.

That’s not to say that they play within themselves or they have to be timid or fearful.

They have got to be knowledgeable of what they are capable of but also what other teams are capable of in what is a brutal league.

Anything less than their absolute best will not be enough.

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Thank you Laura Collins