Bilbao coach Marcelo Biesla once again has proved himself to be a tactical genius, with the next footnote on his impressive resume coming at the expense of Manchester United.
Bielsa became a household name in coaching with his direction of Chile in the past 2010 FIFA World Cup, guiding them to victories over Honduras and Switzerland and advancing into the second round.
His legend has grown again as he has taken the helm of Athletic Bilbao of the Spanish La Liga, and as his Bilbao side advanced into the Europa Leauge, he outwitted Manchester United by exposing flaws and playing some terrific football in their 3-2 victory this past week.
Bilbao’s 3-2 win hardly doing justice to their dominance. Their pressing was intense, their passing precise, it was as Eduardo Rodrigal Varez said in El Pais, as if ”United had the air of a diva deprived of her dressing room whilst Athletic opened the door with the energy of a youthful actor.”
That energy is Bielsa’s making. Endless hours of training before the season began and even once it had they were initially like a team pounding a treadmill on an incline, constantly running just to stand still and eventually wilting through tiredness. But crucially the players got it, they could see the Argentine’s vision and since their fitness levels reached the required level to carry it out, they have soared.
An example of just how good Athletic’s pressing was comes not only from the fact that they had nearly 70% of possession at Old Trafford – never allowing Utd any time on the ball and then using it wisely when they did – but from another great game from this week’s European card. When Arsenal’s high-tempo smothered AC Milan into submission enough to take a 3-0 half-time lead, one of the greatest comebacks in European football history was on. Yet, they tired quickly in the second-half, unable to maintain such intense pressing, something on which Bielsa insists.
Rumors have risen about Bielsa becoming the favorite target by Roman Abromovich at Chelsea, and regardless as to whether he remains at Athletic or not, the shine on Bielsa's star has never been brighter.