With injuries and suspensions starting to take its toll on the United squad, it’s been questioned if the likes of youngsters Ryan Edmondson, Leif Davis and, most prominently in the current circumstances, defender Pascal Struijk could have roles to play in the near future.
20-year-old Dutch centre-back Struijk was a 2018 acquisition Ajax, and though the youngster hasn’t yet featured for the first-team, the injury suffered by captain Liam Cooper – along with United’s lack of defensive depth – means Struijk may get the call sooner rather than later.
So is he ready? Well according to former Leeds man Noel Whelan, who was speaking to Football Insider, the defender is “highly rated” by his Argentine manager. Whelan believes a first-team start is just a matter of time for Struijk and that “Bielsa has big plans for him.”
At 6ft 3in tall and technically adept, Struijk appears to have the necessary attributes to play in the Championship and Bielsa is not afraid to give young players the opportunity and platform to show their capabilities.
Something of concern for the manager, however, would be partnering Struijk with fellow youngster Ben White. The 22-year-old has been superb since joining on loan from Premier League Brighton, but Bielsa may be reluctant to field two largely inexperienced defenders together at the heart of his backline.
The Championship has some uncompromising, wily strikers and the manager may wish for a more experienced head to guide a younger partner rather than adding another rookie into the mix.
Had it been White that was facing injury and Struijk could be partnered by experienced skipper and Scottish international Liam Cooper, there’s every chance the young Dutchman, who recently signed a new long-term deal, could be thrown in.
However, the way in which things are, it appears it may not be quite the right time to hand him his debut. It also appears though, that Pascal Struijk is held in very high regard at the club and is almost certain to get his chance in the foreseeable future.
A key factor in Bielsa’s time at Leeds has been his inclusive and trusting philosophy in the inclusion of young players. So often managers at large clubs, with big expectations, can take the easy option of going with experience over youth every time. That can’t be said of the Leeds boss though, and the club, along with players like Pascal Struijk, continue to feel the benefits of his methods.