Brighton, Crystal Palace and Brentford: Is this a make-or-break week for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United - Stuart Rayner

“In Bielsa We Trust.”

It is a mantra you see and hear around Leeds, with good reason.

In three years, Marcelo Bielsa has transformed a football club. He has fallen in love with Leeds United and the feeling is mutual. Rather depressingly, the 66-year-old will never win the title at Elland Road as Don Revie and Howard Wilkinson did but in years to come he will be held in the same esteem because football is about more than just trophies, it is about fun.

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Bielsa has made watching the Whites a joy – and brought his fair share of wins too.

Trust in football usually takes a long time to build but can disappear alarmingly quickly. Ask Dean Smith, Daniel Farke or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

As Bielsa embarks on his first three-game Premier League week of the season – with two more to come in December – he needs a result or two not to save himself from the sack but to buttress himself against the sort of future collapse which consumed Smith, Farke and Solskjaer.

When the season started, only six Premier League managers -–Bielsa included – were thought less likely than Smith to be the first sacked, such was his apparent job security.

The roots of Smith’s demise actually began early this year, around the time Jack Grealish picked up an injury which highlighted what we knew already, how indispensible he was to Aston Villa. Replacing him proved beyond Smith.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa Picture: Tony Johnson

But even after Grealish joined Manchester City in the summer, with the money reinvested, there was little sense Smith’s job was under threat. He had earned trust and the time to put things right by the way he revived a club that had lost its way in the Championship, by the successful fight against relegation in their first season back in the Premier League, then the punching above their weight afterwards.

Sacking Smith seemed wrong but the trust dissolved.

Norwich City knew they were facing another relegation battle when the season began but having twice impressively won the Championship under Farke, they trusted him to lead the fight, if not necessarily win it. A feeble start changed that.

Solskjaer was trusted because he understood Manchester United and his affinity with the fans from his playing days bought goodwill beyond his ability but there was progress – third place and serial semi-finalists in his first full season, second and Europa League runners-up last term. The board trusted him with huge funds in the summer, extended his contract by three years and signed up his coaching staff too.

GONE: Former Aston Villa manager Dean Smith Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

An all-dominant opening-weekend win over Leeds raised hopes and when Cristiano Ronaldo signed in August there was more talk from fans about title challenges than nervousness about unbalanced squads.

Even last week the board seemed as in thrall to their manager as Leeds’s is to theirs. But by the end, the people singing “Ole’s at the wheel” at Old Trafford were in the away section and the bean-counters reacted.

If England could sack Sir Alf Ramsey, if Arsenal fans could have demanded Arsene Wenger leave long before he did, no manager can rely on everlasting trust. Some get out before it expires.

Bielsa will more than likely fall into that category but the reservoir is steadily leaking.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds the Manchester United fans after losing at Watford, his final game in charge of the team. Picture: John Walton/PA

At what point does a bad start become worse? The Premier League season is only 12 games old but a week on Sunday it will be 25 per cent further along.

Injuries mean Leeds are not in the ideal shape for three games in that time – Brighton and Hove Albion away on Saturday, Crystal Palace at home on Tuesday, Brentford at Elland Road the following Sunday. That their squad is being stretched is bad luck but Bielsa has invited it with his insistence on only 18 senior players. In a season where nine substitutes are permitted, it seems too few.

It was almost unfair asking Stuart McKinstry, not even Leeds’s first-choice teenage striker, to try to change Sunday’s game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but with Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo injured, Raphinha ill, Joe Gelhardt having run his course and Tyler Roberts on the pitch, there was no one better to turn to.

It might be late November, but Leeds have eight games to get through before 2021 is out. Bamford’s return cannot come soon enough but Bielsa has given no indication it is on the horizon.

If Burnley win at home to Spurs on Sunday – and Leeds lose at Brighton – they will be in the relegation zone. Bielsa recognising his self-imposed handicap and adding depth to the squad in January would be reassuring but surprising from the stubborn idealist – Leeds realise if you try to push him into a corner, you will only push him out.

The next three matches are not “must-win” – that phrase has lost all meaning through overuse.

SACKED: Former Norwich City manager Daniel Farke Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

Leeds have more than enough to salvage the situation and the right manager to do it. They did play Spurs off the pitch in the first half, helped by Bielsa’s choice of Kalvin Phillips at centre-back.

But trust needs topping up from time to time, and in more than one sense, too many reserves are being used right now.

In Bielsa we still trust, but a good week would go a long way to reassuring those whose faith can be prone to waver.