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.
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.
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.
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.