What can Manchester United expect from incoming boss Louis van Gaal? Alex Moretto gives his opinion on the Dutchman.

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van gaal miWhen Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester at the conclusion of the 2012/13 season, no one could have predicted the disaster that would follow. The Scotsman was the mortar holding this ailing team together, and with his departure, the bricks at Old Trafford began to crumble. David Moyes came in, lacking a clear plan and direction, nearly capsizing this sinking ship. The rest is history.

Thankfully, for the sake of the supporters, the sun rises with every new day – and Red Devils fans will take the news of David Moyes’ departure as a chance to turn the page on a disastrous campaign in search of brighter days ahead. Enter Louis van Gaal.

The Dutchman’s abrasive management style has come under plenty of scrutiny during his time with other top European clubs. He tends to act more as a dictator than coach. Normally these tendencies are less than ideal when attempting to manage a group of star players, and in the past they have led to bitter break-ups with both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

However, this might be a best-case scenario for Manchester United; a club with a fractured ego and damaged reputation could use Van Gaal’s disciplinarian tactics to help restore confidence within Old Trafford.

“It is not a question you can answer easily,” now former United defender Nemanja Vidic told BBC Sport regarding what went wrong for them this season.

“Everything did not happen in one week. You can’t say this or that happened. In the cycle of one year, there are a lot of things. But when we lost the chance to win the title, we knew this season was lost.

“Then it is like resetting a computer and starting again. You want to see lights for the next season.

“It was a bad time and the players could have done better. But everyone lost belief in the team,” he added.

Van Gaal’s services could not be coming at a more crucial time. The Dutchman is a proven winner with a track record that speaks for itself. He has often been criticized for his two year tenure in Bayern Munich, despite a less than ideal working atmosphere.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Franz Beckenbauer put the Dutchman under constant scrutiny. The ‘he said, she said’ culture within Bayern’s camp led to a endless game of one-upmanship, which left Van Gaal with little reason to believe this was his team.

He was never able to run Bayern the way he wanted, without interference from the higher ups, yet still delivered the league title in his first season in charge, being voted coach of the year and becoming the first ever Dutch manager to win the Bundesliga. The majority of players came to accept his punitive management style as the team continued to get results.

His second season was much less impressive, but the blame can not be placed solely on the shoulders of the enigmatic Van Gaal. Bayern have historically struggled after big tournaments, and that is what happened in 2011, following the World Cup in South Africa. Nine Bayern players made it to the final stage of the tournament (third-place match and final), including Arjen Robben, who returned to the team severely injured.

After a calamitous start to the season, the Dutchman was put under close examination, with every dropped point considered a stepping stone towards his termination. Bayern never managed to rebound from their slow start and he was sent packing after less than two full seasons in charge.

Van Gaal was looked upon as a failure, and was accused of having left the club in a fractured state. However, often overlooked are the many good things he did for Die Roten. He converted Bastian Schweinsteiger, playing winger for the Bavarians at the time, to a defensive midfielder, where he is now considered tops in the world at the position.

The Dutchman’s ability to spot talent has never been questioned, and he has always been a firm believer of promoting from within. With Bayern, Van Gaal gave his utmost respect to two youth team players, relative unknowns at the time, Thomas Muller and Holger Badstuber. He recognized their talent and work ethic, selecting both players to the first team, and they repaid his support. The pair played an important role during his tenure, and continue to lead the team today – much like he did with Xavi in Barcelona, giving the 18-year-old youth team player his first chance with the senior squad, while also rewarding him with his first ever Champions League start with the Blaugrana at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal’s ability to spot talent extends further than just the pitch, which is why his arrival at Old Trafford should be welcome news for Ryan Giggs. When the Dutchman was first hired by Barcelona, he encountered a man on his staff by the name of Jose Mourinho. Van Gaal recognized his potential and took the inexperienced Portuguese assistant under his wing. Mourinho learned – and continues to credit the Dutchman for helping him grow into the manager he is today.

The current Chelsea boss was taken aback by the standard to which Van Gaal held his players, and the structure of his training regimen. He knew what they were going to do, when they were going to do it and how they would approach it. Van Gaal also let Mourinho take on much more responsibility, entrusting him with the Barcelona B team, and even letting him take over as first team manager for lesser cup games.

Aside from his six years at Ajax, where he won 11 trophies, Van Gaal has never spent more than four years in one place. Whether or not he is considered a long term replacement at Manchester United is still a relative unknown. If his time at the club lasts just a few seasons, they will have a sure-fire replacement in Ryan Giggs. The Welshman will be groomed by Van Gaal from the start, which should ensure he as a bright managerial future, whether it’s with Manchester United or elsewhere.

One thing we know for sure, is the Dutchman’s no nonsense attitude is best suited to help transition a club like Manchester United back to their winning ways. The Red Devils’ catastrophic past season has brought many players into the spotlight, and not for good reasons. A lack of accountability within the dressing room showed the need to clean house on Sir Matt Busby Way. The compete level within the team began to disappear and the season was written off long before the final matches were played.

Van Gaal’s aggressive management style means he will not shy away from making difficult decisions, parting with players who aren’t willing to put in the required effort this club needs to get back on track. This is a process which is already underway.

Club legends Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are set to leave the club, with more expected to follow. The amount of waste collected within the team over the past few seasons is uncanny. Van Gaal will not hesitate to remove the excess fat, keeping around only those willing to put in the work and adapt to his system.

rvp lvgAt front and center of this mess is castaway Dutch striker Robin van Persie, who has a long working relationship with Van Gaal. The forward has experienced some of his best years with the national team under the management style of Louis van Gaal. When things go wrong, Van Persie tends to lose his focus and, as a result, his performance suffers.

On the pitch, Van Gaal, a firm believer in ‘Totaal Voetbal’, takes a very attacking approach, something United were sorely lacking under David Moyes. The arrival of the new manager in Manchester should help rejuvenate the aging striker, milking every last ounce of football he has left – helping him return to his title winning form from the 2012-13 season.

Van Gaal is credited with helping to create a revolutionary blueprint for attacking football during his early days with Ajax. His style may be controversial, but far from his animated relationships with players, Van Gaal values those who give their all for the team.

Putting in the effort to buy into the system, study it and learn it, will keep you on his good side, leading to a fruitful relationship, beneficial for both parties. This is one of the admirable qualities of the Dutchman. He’s honorable and loyal to his players – if you work hard for him, you will most certainly reap the benefits.

However, this is where the problem currently lies with Manchester United. Van Gaal does not yet have his players. The promise of a plentiful transfer budget was undoubtedly a deciding factor in the Dutchman taking the position. Van Gaal has a clear and refined vision, and United are seriously in need of upgrades in order for his style to successfully translate onto the pitch.

In the past, Van Gaal has made no secret of which players he likes to target in the transfer window. During his first two seasons in Barcelona, he bought eight Dutch players – Michael Reiziger, Winston Bogarde, Ruud Hesp, Patrick Kluivert, Boudewijn Zenden, Phillip Cocu, Ronald and Frank de Boer – five of which played under him at one point or another during his time in Ajax.

His main target this summer will be Roma and Netherlands youngster Kevin Strootman. Van Gaal is a known admirer of the 24-year-old as a player and a person. The feeling is mutual. The central midfielder scored five goals, while adding five assists, in 25 games with the Italian outfit this season, his first with the club. An unfortunate knee injury cut his season short, but not before he could make a lasting impression on the supporters.

He isn’t expected to return to action until October, which could complicate matters, as would a hefty £30m price tag. Will Van Gaal want his first purchase to be a player who can’t make an impact until midway through the season? The Dutchman does things his way, so it’s unlikely that should matter. Strootman is a box to box midfielder who packs quite a punch. His ability to win the ball in midfield, while still posing as a scoring threat is what makes him such a valuable commodity.

Manchester United were in desperate need of a true box to box midfielder, with the ability to add creativity and goals from the heart of the formation. The Red Devils rotated four players in Strootman’s central midfield position this season, and they combined to score a dismal two goals. The Dutchman managed that in just over half a season, while adding five assists.

If he were to miss out on Strootman, Feyenoord’s young architect Jordy Clasie could be considered a consolation prize, and can be had at about a quarter of the price. The two play a very similar style, although the latter lacks the same physical presence. The 22-year-old has always been considered one of the smartest players on the pitch, and nearly every Feyenoord attack starts at his feet. This is the creativity United have not had in midfield in quite a while.

At the back, Van Gaal needs to replace both Ferdinand and Vidic. Enter Joel Veltman. The 22-year-old Ajax defender was an integral part of the club’s fourth consecutive title capture and could be had for around £5m. After injuries de-railed his first couple of seasons in Amsterdam, the centre back caused quite a stir this year with his innate play in defence, drawing plenty of comparisons to former Ajax defenders Jaap Stam and Jan Vertonghen.

The question still remains, however, whether or not Veltman is prepared to take the next step. Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, all past Ajax graduates at the position, spent at least four full seasons with the senior team before moving on. The first two were also bought for over £10m a piece. Veltman, although he appears ready to take on new challenges, finished just his first full season at the Amsterdam ArenA as a result of injuries early in his career, and would be difficult to pry away from the Dutch outfit, especially if manager Frank de Boer decides to stay put.

Van Gaal certainly doesn’t seem to mind. He gave awarded Veltman’s strong play with his first ever cap for the national team, and named him to Holland’s 30-man provisional squad for the upcoming World Cup. If Veltman opts to stay in Ajax and continue to develop, there are plenty of other options. Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, both Feyenoord products, have become national team regulars under Van Gaal, and appear ready for a move to one of Europe’s top leagues.

Veltman has the rare ability to charge forward on the ball, much like former Holland and Ajax legend Jaap Stam. He has plenty of room to grow, but should have no problems doing so under the tutelage of Van Gaal.

United’s defence was left in shambles through much of the season. Ferdinand, Vidic, Jones and Smalling seemed to be stepping on eggshells throughout the season, more focused on avoiding mistakes than playing football. Veltman, at the ripe age of 22, is hardly lacking in confidence. He would be able to step into a system he is more than familiar with, contributing to the team in a way Vidic did when he first arrived from Spartak Moscow.

One other name to keep an eye on is Arjen Robben. The storied Bayern winger looks set to move on from the club this summer, and with the Red Devils severely lacking on the wing, the speculation is justified. Van Gaal brought Robben to the Allianz Arena when he arrived in 2009, and made him a mainstay with the Netherlands U-20 and senior team. United fans can be 100 percent certain Van Gaal will not tolerate having Antonio Valencia as the club’s top winger.

janmaat cdfOther names to keep an eye on are Daryl Janmaat (right-back, Feyenoord), Daley Blind (left-back/central midfielder, Ajax) and Memphis Depay (left winger, PSV). All three of them are expected to be on Netherlands’ World Cup team this summer.

Of course Van Gaal’s transfer targets will not be limited to the Eredivisie. Luke Shaw, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and Edinson Cavani have all been linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer. The Dutchman will not shy away from a purchase if he believes it will help strengthen the club.

Van Gaal isn’t coming to make friends, but win trophies. His aggressive management style is exactly what Manchester United need to get back to their winning ways. He will have a large transfer budget to resurrect a decaying back line, instil creativity in midfield and play an attractive style of football the club was truly lacking under David Moyes.

Projected starting XI next season: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Hummels, Shaw; Strootman, Carrick; Robben, Rooney, Mata; Van Persie.




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