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Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa understands importance of Manchester United clash

The first Premier League match between the sides in 16 years ended in a thumping 6-2 defeat for Leeds at Old Trafford in December.

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Marcelo Bielsa hopes the spotlight can return to the on-field action this weekend (Andy Rain/PA)

Marcelo Bielsa hopes the spotlight can return to the on-field action this weekend (Andy Rain/PA)

Marcelo Bielsa hopes the spotlight can return to the on-field action this weekend (Andy Rain/PA)

Marcelo Bielsa insists he needs no reminding how much victory over arch-rivals Manchester United on Sunday would mean to Leeds fans.

The visit of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to Elland Road was the first game Whites supporters looked out for when the Premier League fixture list was released in August.

“I know perfectly what it means to play in a classic game,” Bielsa said. “I know the effect that the result will have on the emotion of the people.”

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Bruno Fernandes converted Manchester United’s sixth goal against Leeds in December from the penalty spot (Clive Brunskill/PA)

Bruno Fernandes converted Manchester United’s sixth goal against Leeds in December from the penalty spot (Clive Brunskill/PA)

Bruno Fernandes converted Manchester United’s sixth goal against Leeds in December from the penalty spot (Clive Brunskill/PA)

The two sides’ first top-flight clash in 16 years ended in a thumping 6-2 defeat for Leeds at Old Trafford in December and revenge would be the highlight of their season.

More fan protests against the ill-fated European Super League were planned at grounds across the country this weekend before the venture collapsed and Bielsa hopes all eyes can now return to events on the field.

“I always hope that there is calmness,” he said. “I think this subject has already been consumed.

“Football and a classic game like this, there is a grade of excitement that is absolutely enough.

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Leeds players joined in the protests against the proposed European Super League before Monday’s draw with Liverpool (Paul Ellis/PA)

Leeds players joined in the protests against the proposed European Super League before Monday’s draw with Liverpool (Paul Ellis/PA)

Leeds players joined in the protests against the proposed European Super League before Monday’s draw with Liverpool (Paul Ellis/PA)

“The most clear demand from this episode is to put the focus on the competition.”

Leeds are unbeaten in their last five league matches, which have included draws against Chelsea and Liverpool, plus victory while playing the second half with 10 men at Manchester City.

Bielsa’s side are bidding to retain their top-10 place, but must do so without club-record signing Rodrigo, who remains sidelined due to a muscle strain.

Raphinha is another key player who is struggling to recover in time after he missed Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool after sustaining a thigh injury at the Etihad Stadium.

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“With Raphinha we’re controlling his evolution on a daily basis,” Bielsa said. “Up until now he hasn’t recovered sufficiently to be able to train.

“Rodrigo is in the last stages of his recovery, but not well enough to feature this weekend against Manchester United.”

At Old Trafford in December, Solskjaer’s side ruthlessly punished Leeds’ defensive lapses, but Bielsa feels the 6-2 scoreline was not a true reflection of the game.

“Of course what happened in that last game is present in our minds,” he added. “You have to recognise the characteristics of the opponents’ forwards and try to organise our players on the field so they can pick up the protagonists.

“We try to match them up with players in our team who are up to the challenge of neutralising them.”

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