Let’s take you on a trip down memory lane to the 2011-12 season, when Sir Alex Ferguson was still manager at Manchester United, suffering a blip in his prestigious career, as his side unexpectedly found themselves in the Europa League.
Coming third in their Champions League group behind Benfica and Basel, the Red Devils crashed out of the competition and ended up in the inferior European tournament, facing Ajax in the first knockout round.
Just about seeing off Frank de Boer’s side, Manchester United were then drawn against Athletic Bilbao, managed by current Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
The Argentinian had, and still has, a reputation for intense football, and Ferguson’s men were unable to cope, losing 3-2 at Old Trafford before being defeated 2-1 in Spain at San Mamés.
The La Liga side appeared well prepared for the tie, and there’s a reason for it, as Boca Juniors’ youth team chief coordinator, Claudio Vivas, then technical assistant to Bielsa, explained to La Voz del Interior.
He said: “To be with Bielsa, you need to be prepared. Improvisation and bulls*** don’t fly with Marcelo. If you have to tell him how Manchester United play, you really need to know how they play.
“I had to watch 57 Manchester United games, when we were in Bilbao, to give him a report on the team. Without Bielsa, I wouldn’t be anyone. He helped me develop as a human being and as a technical director. If I have a job today, it’s because of him.”
Just to put that in perspective, that’s 85.5 hours of football watched to give the now Leeds United manager a scouting report on their upcoming opponents.
Let’s say Vivas had to do that for every opponent Bilbao faced that season (around 30), that’s 2565 hours of watching games, or just under 107 days. In a season.