Leeds land in Australia – but boss Marcelo Bielsa will be late to the party
Leeds have landed in Australia but Marcelo Bielsa is not joining the squad until the eve of their pre-season clash against Manchester United – and there is a chance he could jet back to the UK straight afterwards.
The old foes will meet in Perth’s mammoth Optus Stadium for a glamour friendly on Wednesday, before the Yorkshire club head further east to take on Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.
Eyebrows were raised when Leeds named just 16 players in the squad for the trip to Australia, while the fact manager Bielsa has initially stayed back at base is just as striking.
The Argentinian’s eye for detail is well documented and he remained behind to ensure his new signings and internationals were up to speed ahead of the new Sky Bet Championship campaign.
Bielsa is due to arrive in Perth on Tuesday and it is understood a decision has yet to be taken on whether the Leeds boss stays for the match in Sydney or returns to England.
It could mean he stay in Australia for just 36 hours, but captain Liam Cooper is not worrying about his manager’s movements.
“I think as professionals you’ve just got to do your job,” he said. “You do what you’re told to do and that’s the way it is.
“We’ve got an experienced group out here and Marcelo wants to work with the lads he’s brought in and the lads who came back a bit later.
“They’re sort of doing their fitness work what they missed out on when we were there, so I think it’s all normal to the lads and the lads just get on with it and look forward to it and enjoy it.”
Leeds arrived in Perth on Sunday evening, with bleary-eyed Cooper and Pablo Hernandez facing the media the following morning atop of a skyscraper before heading to training.
Cooper is looking forward to putting their intense pre-season sessions into action against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Reds at Optus Stadium on Wednesday as they continue preparations for another promotion tilt.
Leeds had been on course for a long-awaited Premier League return last season, only for a memorable campaign to end in disappointment in the play-off semi-final against Derby.
“All the boys are buzzing to be back and buzzing to get going,” Cooper said, reflecting on the 4-2 semi-final second leg loss at Elland Road.
“Obviously it was a disappointing end to the last season, one we didn’t expect.
“But we dust ourselves down and it gives us a bit more of a burning motivation in our tummies to go and succeed this year.
“It’s different because obviously after the game you go away and you have to deal with it yourself. Obviously we weren’t in training, we weren’t seeing the lads and it was hard work.
“But I think eventually you come to grips with it and it just creates more of a motivation in yourself.
“I can certainly see that in the lads now we’re back in pre-season training that they’ve got that feeling too.”
Cooper would love to lead Leeds back to the Premier League in the club’s centenary year, but questions remain over the shape of the squad.
Kalvin Phillips – one of those selected for the trip to Australia – continues to be linked with a big-money summer exit, while centre-back Pontus Jansson has been allowed to join Championship rivals Brentford.
“It’s always a surprise but, at the end of the day, the club has got to do what the club has got to do,” Cooper said of his defensive partner’s departure
“He was a great player to play with, he was a great lad. We just wish him all the best in his new venture.”