By George Overhill

8th Mar, 2023 | 6:10pm

Victor Orta is surely operating on borrowed time at Leeds United amid reports of behind-the-scenes tension at Elland Road.

The backing and then sacking of Jesse Marsch this season looks like being the defining feature of the campaign, with the whys and hows now set to determine the relegation battle and the short-term future of the club.

The American was Orta’s man, with the sporting director backing him heavily after choosing him as the one to continue the Marcelo Bielsa legacy.

Clearly that ultimately didn’t work, but it is the disagreements in-house and the effects of them that surely make it unlikely that Orta remains at the club long-term.

A report in the Daily Mail on 6 February, the day that Marsch was ultimately fired, stated that Orta was chief among those who still wanted him to stay at that point, while sources had indicated there was also “internal tension” over the January transfer policy.

It isn’t hard to read between the lines that those two things follow on from one another, with a transfer policy that skewed heavily Red Bull and/or American during Marsch’s time in charge.

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Max Wober and Weston McKennie were the latest arrivals to fit that outlook in the winter window, although both have looked solid so far.

A month later i News reported (6 March) that Orta is “in the crosshairs” due to his key role in the direction of the club over the last 12-months, while also noting that there were “rumblings of disagreements” in the wake of Marsch’s sacking.

Those disagreements might partly explain why the process of replacing the former Leeds United boss was so disorganised, with all the top options proving out of reach midseason.

That the Whites then appeared to settle on Alfred Schreuder before a fan backlash, and next caretaker boss Michael Skubala before a dismal 1-0 loss at Everton on 18 February, before finally going back to Javi Gracia who had been available the whole time and originally contacted a fortnight earlier [Sky Sports, 21 February], spoke of a club hierarchy in disarray.

This is not to say that Orta is solely to blame for everything that has happened across back-to-back relegation battles, or that he didn’t honestly believe his decisions were in the club’s best interest.

What matters is that he was clearly overruled on Marsch, and then there were tensions over the next moves as well.

Whether it was Andrea Radrizzani or representatives of 49ers Enterprises who decided that enough was enough and pulled the plug on the former Red Bull boss, someone in a position of power no longer trusted Orta’s decision-making.

You can weigh up the rationale of his choosing Marsch, and then backing him heavily in the market, as much as you like but if those in charge are no longer convinced by it the writing sounds like it is on the wall.

With the benefit of hindsight it would probably have been best to change managers during the World Cup break, which the club considered doing at the time according to i News on 6 February.

It was surely Orta that argued against that, and while it is impossible to know how things would have gone until the end of the season he was proven wrong between November and February.

One of Andoni Iraola, Arne Slot or Carlos Corberan may have been possible at that stage, but instead the Spaniard’s support for Marsch was accepted until a highly awkward time of the season, just after the transfer window had closed.

Many fans hold Orta responsible for the mistakes that have been made subsequently, but ultimately that won’t be what causes his problems.

What matters is it is now easy to see how Radrizzani or the 49ers would hold him responsible for the situation, and whether he actually is or not it will be one of those two parties who are making the decisions at the end of the season.

Dispensing with Orta at the same time as Marsch would have given the impression of a sinking ship, and would have made sourcing a new manager even more – somehow – difficult than it proved to be.

But whether Gracia can keep Leeds United in the Premier League or not now it would be no shock to see the sporting director depart in the summer.

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In other Leeds United news, a regular first-team starter is in line for a cut-price exit after familiar contract issues.