Leeds banking on Red Bull formula to give them wins as Jesse Marsch replaces Bielsa

Club will hope American can provide same boost Ralph Hassenhuttl gave Southampton

Jesse Marsch has signed a deal at Leeds United until June 2025. PA
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Red Bull. It gives you wins, to adapt the slogan.

Leeds United, like Manchester United and Southampton before them, certainly hope so. By hiring Jesse Marsch, the former RB Leipzig, Salzburg and New York Red Bulls head coach as the successor to the sacked Marcelo Bielsa, they are trusting a brand.

Marsch’s three previous employers are all clubs under the global umbrella of the soft-drink manufacturer, Red Bull’s football network.

Ralph Rangnick, the interim head coach of Manchester United was, until 2020, the senior executive of its various, linked football operations, and combined the role for periods with the job of coaching Leipzig, either side of Ralph Hassenhuttl, now of Southampton, being in that job.

If Marsch, whose senior career in club management has followed the Red Bull thread for all but one season, can start his biggest adventure outside the group in the way Hassenhuttl began in English football, Leeds will feel the difficult removal of the popular Bielsa and his replacement with the American is justified.

When Hassenhuttl came to Southampton in December 2018, they were in the relegation zone; he dug them clear and has maintained their top-flight status over three full seasons since.

Leeds sit two points above the drop zone, but the two clubs immediately below them, in 17th and 18th place, Everton and Burnley, have matches in hand. So the new manager’s mission is urgent. Bielsa’s last five games yielded a single point and his team shipped 20 goals in that sequence.

Injuries to senior players have made a side of great flair for most of the Bielsa era alarmingly fragile. Marsch cannot heal the likes of Patrick Bamford, the club’s go-to centre-forward, or Kalvin Phillips, the influential England international whose drive and distribution from central midfield seem irreplaceable, but he will be rigorous in searching for solutions to the current free fall.

Leeds sack Marcelo Bielsa

He’ll be distinct from Bielsa, the Argentine who arrived at Leeds in 2018 and two years later had guided the club back into the top division after an absence of 17 years, because of his spoken English. Bielsa used an interpreter for much of his communication, although the clarity of his ideas was still considered one of his strengths in a dressing-room which largely remained loyal to him.

Marsch can give powerful team-talks, as footage of his address to Salzburg players at half time of a Champions League fixture at Anfield in 2019 shows. The speech was recorded and broadcast later, Marsch switching between English and German, often within the same sentence, but fluent in his body language, and, evidently, successful in gaining the incremental improvements in performance that he sought.

In that game, Salzburg had trailed 3-0 after 36 minutes. By the 60th minute the score was Liverpool 3, Salzburg 3. A Mohamed Salah goal then swung the pendulum back in favour of the home team.

At Salzburg, Marsch won two Austrian Premier League titles. In New York, he was named MLS Coach of the Year in his first season. Rangnick was on the panel that appointed him there, impressed by his work at Montreal Impact, where he coached for a single season.

Jesse Marsch parted company with RB Leipzig by mutual consent on December 21, 2021. PA

He has been seeking a new job since December, when his short spell at Leipzig came to an end. He had moved there, an upward step on the Red Bull ladder, last summer, but there were big holes to plug. He was succeeding the precocious Julian Nagelsmann, headhunted by Bayern Munich, who also bought two pillars of the Leipzig team he had guided to second place in the German Bundesliga, the defender Dayot Upemecano and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer.

Leipzig were plunged into an unforgiving Champions League group, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Shortly after finishing third in that group, a run of three successive league defeats left them 11th in the 18-team table. Marsch’s departure was described as a “mutual decision”, with Leipzig’s sporting director Oliver Mintzlaff acknowledging that, for all Marsch's long connection to “classic RB football”, “it was not the right fit.”

As for how Marsch fits at a Leeds who, under Bielsa, developed a distinctive, high-energy, stamina-heavy game, there are aspects to his style that make him a logical choice. His teams press aggressively generally and favour quick transitions when possession is regained.

But he is an outsider to the Premier League, and, for that, a different sort of would-be saviour from the managers chosen by other clubs involved in a gripping, tight battle to stay in the division.

Norwich City, Watford, Newcastle United, Everton and Aston Villa have all changed managers during the season, concerned at the danger of relegation. All of them brought in English managers with a history of having coached or played in the Premier League.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 3:04 AM