Promotion done, Leeds legend Bielsa’s real test will be to stay on top

15 managers and 16 years later, Elland Road will finally witness top-flight football once again as Marcelo Bielsa’s side gained the right to play alongside the best teams in the country. So, Manchester United should better watch out next season as they will have to go through two more rival matches in the league.

Leeds, extraordinarily, fell from grace in 2003/04 when they finished 19th in the league and were dumped to second division. The fact that they had reached the semi-finals of Champions League three years prior made it all the more painful for their faithfuls. They had the likes of Paul Robinson, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and James Milner among others in their ranks when they bid goodbye to the Premier League.

Their success was the reason top stars wore their jerseys and big-name celebrities supported them whole-heartedly. They have won the top division title three times, finished runner-up five times, won the FA Cup once and even ended as a Champions League finalist in 1974-75 season.

Before becoming a Manchester United legend, Rio Ferdinand showed glimpses of his immense talent at Leeds which got him his dream move to Alex Ferguson’s team. Hollywood’s generational superstar Russell Crowe congratulated Leeds on social media after their promotion. Nasser Hussain was asked if he is going to switch his loyalty back after he famously said in 2014 that he can’t ‘bear the thought of taking my kids to lower-division games’.

Under Bielsa, Leeds are trying to recapture that magic of the past that made them one of the best teams in the land. In 2018/19 he took charge of the club and straightaway it felt like a match made in heaven. He doesn’t speak English but his methods seemed to be somehow engrained in the players. Bielsa is master tactician like Pep Guardiola, has the attitude of Jose Mourinho and is capable of handing the hairdryer like Alex Ferguson. The players bought into his philosophy and even came close to gaining promotion in his first season in charge but faltered in the play-off to Frank Lampard’s Derby.

Their time has finally come now as they have won the ticket to lock horns with their former rivals. But only time will tell if they belong at the stage because when they left the top-flight, there were only a handful of teams referred to as top dogs while relegation battle wasn’t a dogfight as it is today. Reaching the top is one thing but staying there is another. After 16 years of agony, several heartaches and even playing in third tier for three long years, the sleeping giant is well and truly awoke.


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