As youngster Jamie Shackleton shone in the midweek victory over West Bromwich Albion, before succumbing to injury at half time, it appears Bielsa has another star off the Elland Road production line.
Shackleton has come through the United youth ranks and has featured prominently for the club’s Under-23 side over recent seasons, though – with nearly 30 first-team appearances under his belt – he appears very much ready to be part of Marcelo Bielsa’s regular plans and fight for a shirt on a consistent basis.
The youngster – approaching his 20th birthday – has everything needed of a modern-day Championship midfielder. Combative and creative in equal measure, Shackleton can handle himself in the ‘engine room’ while also being able to operate in wider defensive positions if needed, showing a real range of versatility.
Though United have high expectations and aspire to reach the Premier League as soon as possible, Bielsa does not let this come in the way of youth development and Shackleton is at the perfect club – under the perfect manager – to develop his game, learn and be given ample first-team opportunities should his form carry on warranting this.
The injury he picked up doesn’t appear to be too serious or long-term, so hopefully Shackleton can continue to press his more senior teammates for a regular place in the ‘Whites’ first eleven very soon.
There is fierce competition for a place in Bielsa’s midfield, as you’d expect at a big club pushing for top-flight promotion. Kalvin Phillips is undoubtedly one of the first names on the team sheet, while Mateusz Klich is a key cog in the Argentine’s wheel. In addition to that, Adam Forshaw is an experienced player at this level while the versatile Stuart Dallas is more than capable of operating in the centre.
However, Bielsa has continually shown his trust and belief in youth, be it from the clubs academy or bringing youngsters in on loan, and Shackleton will hope to get that same trust and opportunity as he leads the next batch of young United hopefuls – including Ryan Edmondson, Alfie McCalmont and Leif Davis – in to the first-team fold at Elland Road.