When Marcelo Bielsa joined Leeds this summer, the footballing world barely knew how to react. Here was this exceptionally well-regarded coach taking his first job in English football with a Championship club who have, in recent years, massively underperformed.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola described Leeds’ new boss as the best in the world in 2017, but no Premier League clubs decided to take the plunge by employing the Argentine and he has yet to win any major trophies in Europe.
However, the 63-year-old has already provided us with some magical moments of madness during his short tenure in charge of Leeds, and his side’s electric performance on Sunday was a shock for everyone seemingly both at Elland Road and watching around the world.
The Whites pressed with full intensity and their players began to go down with cramp towards the end of their first competitive game under the new boss.
What was obvious from the start of the game though, was the rather traditional 4-1-4-1 formation that Bielsa had set his side up in. This comes from a manager who is well known for implementing his 3-3-1-3 tactic wherever he goes and often likes to play central midfielders in defence.
There was none of that on Sunday though. Leeds lined up against Gary Rowett’s side with a flat back four made up of defenders playing in their favoured positions and the only new signing to start was ex-Wolves left-back Barry Douglas.
Kemar Roofe started ahead of the big-money signing Patrick Bamford and gave the new boy something to think about with his constant hounding of the Stoke centre-backs.
Mateusz Klich opened the scoring early on after some fantastic work by Samu Saiz and veteran midfielder Pablo Hernandez doubled their lead just before half time, albeit with some help from Jack Butland in the Stoke net.
The level perhaps dipped slightly as Stoke’s Benik Afobe scored from the penalty spot just after half-time, but five minutes later centre-back Liam Cooper had headed in and restored the two goal lead for the home side.
As well as the massively impressive performance, the way that Bielsa adapted his philosophy to English football and set up his side with a more conservative formation is the proof that he will be a success in this country. He may well eventually bring in his favoured formation, but for now his insistence on the Leeds players picking up litter for three hours to know how the fans feel when working for their tickets may be the most alien method that the squad are exposed to.
Whether the Whites can sustain a full season of football at that intensity with the current lack of depth in the squad it remains to be seen, but Bielsa has set the benchmark for the rest of the Championship to follow after just one game.