Is Louis van Gaal the right man for Manchester United?

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If at first you don’t succeed… go for the safe option.

After David Moyes was fired just 10 months into his tenure as Manchester United manager, the Red Devils have appointed a manager with a proven track record at top European clubs and a man who has won trophies wherever he has gone. Step forward, Louis van Gaal.

MORE: Van Gaal takes the reins for Man United

The worst kept secret in soccer was let out on Monday as current Dutch national team coach van Gaal, 62, will take over at Old Trafford when the World Cup is over in July. United have given the eccentric and vastly experienced Dutchman a three-year deal to try and turn things around.

Is he the right man for the job?

Van Gaal’s resume speaks volume for the quality of his teams in the past and the Dutch manager has a massive presence after leading teams likes FC Barcelona, Ajax and Bayern Munich to glory. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing as leaving Barca in relegation trouble, failing to qualify for the World Cup with Holland and a finish outside the top three with Bayern has blotted his copybook over the years. He is certainly equipped for turbulent times ahead as things are likely to get worse before they get better at United. With any rebuild, especially of this scale, their will be bumps along the way. Van Gaal’s experience, United are hoping, will smooth those growing pains as he will likely conduct a huge overhaul of the playing staff, playing philosophy and methods with the English powerhouse.

Van Gaal’s early work with Ajax is perhaps still his greatest achievement as a coach, with the Amsterdam club winning the UEFA Champions League in 1995 and runners up in 1996 as van Gaal cultivated the talents of Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars and many others.

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Known for his no-nonsense approach, van Gaal will run a tight ship at Man United.

After that van Gaal delivered back-to-back La Liga titles for Barcelona before falling out with the press and players as he then coached Holland at the 2002 World Cup. However the Dutch national team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986 and he left the job in disappointing fashion. Van Gaal then, sensationally, returned to Barca in 2002 but was sacked within six months as he left Barcelona just above the relegation zone after a string of defeats.

MORE: Mourinho welcomes former boss, “nice guy” van Gaal to PL

Those two disappointing spells show that van Gaal is not immortal and is certainly not used to success every single season. He took a step back from Europe’s elite teams and back to his roots at AZ Alkmaar where he was an assistant coach to start off his career on the touchline. It was with AZ from 2005-09 that van Gaal turned the side into a Eredivise contender and regular on the European circuit and he then moved onto Bayern Munich in 2009.

At Bayern van Gaal developed a strong core of youngsters from the academy and lead Bayern to Bundesliga titles and the UCL final where they lost to Inter Milan. His status as one of the world’s best coaches with some of the world’s biggest teams had been restored and he then left in 2012 after a poor season with Bayern to manage Holland. That puts us bang up to date with van Gaal’s career, so far.

It is likely that his final chapter will be in the Premier League and at United. His new deal will take him until the age of 65 and his remit is to win trophies. If he wins the PL title, van Gaal will have four titles in four of Europe’s biggest soccer nations to his name. That takes some doing. This challenge is likely to be one of the toughest in his career and he is not guaranteed success… but he expects it.

“To work as a manager for Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, makes me very proud,” van Gaal said on United’s website. “I have managed in games at Old Trafford before and know what an incredible arena Old Trafford is and how passionate and knowledgeable the fans are. This club has big ambitions; I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.”

From his career so far we can see van Gaal is a bullish character who demands success and for his players to totally by into his way of playing and his soccer philosophy. He runs a tight ship and if you are not on board he will let you know about it, then chuck you off.

That is exactly what United need right now as van Gaal’s presence will help steer the famous club back on its quest for greatness. Also, something which was the likely the clincher in the deal, van Gaal’s experience in the transfer market and his illustrious name means players from across the world want to sign for him and work with him. With United unable to offer UEFA Champions League soccer next season they will need to use van Gaal’s contacts and his name to lure top quality players to Old Trafford.

Is van Gaal the right man for United?

Only time will tell but hie seems much more suited to the job than Moyes ever did and his experience of managing European giants will hold him in good stead for the tough task of rejuvenating one of the biggest teams on the planet. His mission is to bring back the glory day and along the way teach his assistant Ryan Giggs how to run the team. Van Gaal has three years to get the Red Devils back on track, let’s see how long it takes him to do it.

At 0-2, Americans understand stakes in World Cup qualifying

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Michael Bradley sees no reason to keep harping on that 4-0 loss at Costa Rica four months ago.

Yes, it’s still fresh in the Americans’ minds, a night every mistake snowballed into another.

“There is zero point in continuing to look back on that at the moment,” Bradley said. “We are where we are. Now it’s about on Friday night beginning this process of moving ourselves back up the table and stepping on the field from the first minute and playing a really aggressive way that ultimately leaves no doubt as to who’s stepping off the field, win or lose.”

Bruce Arena’s U.S. squad gets a fresh start in World Cup qualifying Friday against Honduras, and the pressure is on following the home country’s first 0-2 start in the North and Central American and Caribbean region’s final round.

“We understand the position we’re in,” Bradley said. “There’s no need for anybody on the outside to put any more pressure on us than we’ve already put on ourselves, because we didn’t start the hex in the right way. We put ourselves behind the eight ball. We’re honest and real enough with ourselves to understand that. Friday night is the beginning of our chance to put things right and get ourselves back in a good position. … We need guys to step on the field and understand the moment, not be fazed by it, go for it in a fearless way and have a big group of guys play really well.”

Forward Jordan Morris’ status for Friday appears in question after he missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury sustained Sunday with the Seattle Sounders. Morris rehabbed in the gym, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.

“Have you followed our team at all the last month? You think that’s going to be something that’s going to bother me?” Arena said at the start of the week when asked about health concerns. “We’re fine. We’re going to have 11 good players on the field on Friday.”

For those who do play, Bradley said it is paramount everybody brings his best game. Same goes for the Americans’ next match in Panama on Tuesday.

While the man in charge has changed – Arena replaced the fired Jurgen Klinsmann in November for a second stint as U.S. coach – and more Major League Soccer players were called upon this time than in November, Bradley insists the approach remains simple: Find a way to win.

“We stepped on the field in Costa Rica wanting to win. That desire to win is obviously still there, so in terms of the basic idea of stepping on the field and trying to play well and go for it in the right way and come away with a positive result, that part’s still the same obviously,” the longtime captain said. “There’s no two ways about it, we let ourselves down in Costa Rica. We didn’t play well enough. Mistakes turned into bigger mistakes, which turned into bigger mistakes, and so it all comes together in a way that you can lose a game in a bad way.”

And, there are many faces who have been on the big stage – Bradley, included.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard started the past two World Cups. Howard, four-time World Cup participant defender DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey played for Arena leading into the coach’s last World Cup qualifying, in 2005. Jozy Altidore brings experience up front.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Howard said. “It’s helpful that we have guys who have been through the hex before, who understand what that takes and the pressures that are on us. Yeah, it’s a big game.”

Bradley isn’t getting fancy when it comes to what the U.S. group must do.

“Winning. Three points,” Bradley said. “That’s it.”

“For us the reality is simple: We let ourselves down in the first two games,” he said. “It means that our margin for error is very, very small, but nothing’s changed in that we still feel good about the team that we have, the group that we are. I think that Bruce has come in and done an excellent job in terms of re-establishing certain things, getting at a few things. The mentality, the spirit in training and around the group both in January and now this week has been excellent, so we’re getting a little excited about the chance to step on the field in a big-time qualifier.”

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”