Marcelo Bielsa challenges Tyler Roberts to affect games more consistently

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Mark Walker, PA
·3-min read
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Marcelo Bielsa believes Tyler Roberts is a rare breed in football and warrants his place in Leeds’ starting line-up.

Leeds take on arch-rivals Manchester United at Elland Road on Sunday and Roberts is likely to be trusted again in an advanced midfield role behind Patrick Bamford.

Roberts has beguiled and frustrated in equal measure during his three seasons in Leeds’ first-team squad and Bielsa has challenged him to affect games more consistently.

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“He has played many games in a row and has shown he has the resources to justify his starting position in the team,” Bielsa said.

“He has virtues that are very difficult to find in football at the moment. He has all the resources necessary to unbalance offensively and still has a lot to grow to make these attempts useful and efficient.”

Roberts, 22, was at his silky-smooth best when setting up a second-half chance for Jack Harrison during Monday night’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool.

But the Wales forward’s shortcomings were highlighted soon after when he slammed a golden chance straight at goalkeeper Alisson Becker. He has yet to score in 21 league appearances this season.

Roberts missed a golden chance to score his first Premier League goal against Liverpool
Roberts missed a golden chance to score his first Premier League goal against Liverpool (Clive Brunskill/PA)

“He has many virtues and needs to impact on Leeds’ offensive game in accordance to the virtues he has,” Bielsa said. “Clearly, there are not many players with his creative assets.”

Leeds’ first top-flight encounter in 16 years against their bitter Roses rivals ended in a chastening 6-2 defeat at Old Trafford in December.

While Whites fans are baying for revenge – too emotive a word for Bielsa to ever use in a footballing sense – their head coach offered Sunday’s opponents his compliments having carried out his usual pre-match analysis.

“The more simple football is, the better it is. This principle is always supported when the players do what they should do and what they are best doing,” Bielsa said.

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“In this sense, Manchester United are an example of this. They advance what they know best how to do and this has permitted them to create a style.

“Their game is simple to decipher. This is a praise. Because to be able to play simple is very difficult and when we manage to achieve it, it is very satisfying.”

Leeds are bidding for their first win against the Red Devils since 2010 when, as a Sky Bet League One club, they produced a stunning upset to knock their old foe out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.

The West Yorkshire club last beat Manchester United in the Premier League in 2002, with Harry Kewell’s second-half header sealing victory by the same score at Elland Road.