The announcement of Louis van Gaal as the new Manchester United manager appears imminent, with an official statement on the subject expected early next week. If the Dutchman takes on the job at the end of the Oranje World Cup adventure as expected, he will inherit a side shorn of confidence and without European football in their midst for the first time in 25 years. Despite the sizeable task confronting the current national team boss, all evidence suggests he is exactly the right choice to help return the Premier League club to the pinnacle of world football.

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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v gOne of the main gripes during David Moyes’ reign was the uninspiring style of play and distinct lack of a clear tactical plan in which the team were expected to operate. Moyes built a sturdy, resilient side at Everton with little flair or imagination to fall back on when they required that spark of magic and he appeared to be in the process of imposing a similar set-up at Old Trafford, causing many unusual results to occur at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ throughout this past season, much to the players’ collective chagrin.

Louis van Gaal was brought up on the finest traditions of Dutch ‘Total Football’ as a young footballer graduating through the Ajax academy ranks and subsequently carried those beliefs into his coaching career. With a heavy emphasis on attacking play, the United faithful will undoubtedly find his footballing philosophy significantly more pleasing on the eye than his much-maligned predecessor’s.

Another difficult issue Moyes faced centred on the rising ‘player power’ within the dressing room, as many publicly slated his credentials amid furious speculation that the majority of his charges had literally stopped trying for him when they meekly surrendered to Olympaikos in the Champions’ League last-16, first leg tie in Greece. That humiliation was rectified by a stirring fight-back in the second leg at home, but a feeling that the comeback was in spite of Moyes, as opposed to because of him, was tangible.

That mutinous behaviour simply won’t be tolerated by the Dutch disciplinarian; yet the squad members will find him an eminently affable person – should they follow his rules. He has a track record of handling huge egos with European giants such as Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, thus making the assorted personalities in the Old Trafford changing room appear tame by comparison. The 62-year-old commands respect from those he leads into battle and the playing staff at Manchester United will be no exception.

His experience of winning major honours, managing big-time players and delivering on exalted expectations all put van Gaal into a distinctly higher stratosphere to the man he will replace, who did a solid job at Everton without holding any trophies aloft on Merseyside.

A fleeting glimpse of Champions’ League football at the preliminary stage was all Moyes had encountered prior to his arrival at Manchester United; van Gaal can point to a glorious triumph in that competition with Ajax back in 1995, alongside a UEFA Cup final victory three years earlier. Additionally, seven league titles with four different clubs across three countries sets him apart from the Scot and many other candidates who may have been in the frame for the sought-after role.

Should the United board back van Gaal to the hilt, he will invest wisely in crucial signings while attempting to promote youth wherever possible. Indeed, he introduced such luminaries as Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol to the Barcelona first-team during his first spell at the Camp Nou helm, while practically the entire Ajax side of ’95 were handed their chance and nurtured by van Gaal himself. Others to have benefitted from his open-minded approach include Muller, Schweinsteiger, Alaba and Badstuber among many more top footballers of today and yesteryear. That sits perfectly with the school of thought at United under the massively successful Sir Alex Ferguson, whom always gave talent a chance no matter what age.

Finally, an important trait of van Gaal’s previous stints at various big clubs abroad was to retain at least one key member of the coaching staff; he did it at Barca when assisted by Bobby Robson’s protégé Jose Mourinho, Hermann Gerland continued unabated at Bayern after the inspirational head coach’s appointment in Bavaria and he will also put the very same practice in place with the Red Devils’ terrace hero Ryan Giggs.

Grooming Giggs to eventually assume the top position is apparently the vision for the long-term future, while those with a vested interest in the fortunes of the club will desperately hope the vast experience, knowledge and glittering CV of the prospective new boss will point to brighter times ahead for a global brand ready to re-launch following an atrocious 2013/14 campaign.