Strict discipline key to Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United


Double training sessions. Downgraded hotel reservations. Meals taken together, with food served according to Louis van Gaal’s dietary guidelines. Only English to be spoken on the pitch.

Goodness knows what would happen if a Manchester United player pulled a Jack Wilshere and lit up a cigarette while on holiday. The manager would almost certainly expect more than an apology.

Certainly van Gaal is aware of the tough road he must climb. United finished seventh last season, and although both Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have been brought in, they’ve yet to reinforce the squad with the players necessary to truly challenge for the Premier League title. Plus, the new manager needs to ensure that his squad is adjusting to his favored style, a 3-5-2 formation that Juan Mata believes could take up to two months to master.

So discipline is necessary. For the first leg of United’s pre-season tour, van Gaal insisted that the Holiday Inn be booked so that players could eat and rest after morning training, then be available for the afternoon’s second session. It is unclear whether they returned to their swooshy Beverly Wilshire Hotel for their nightly shut-eye, however.

New hotels have also been booked in Washington D.C. and Detroit, ensuring United will be able to continue with their double sessions. In Denver, it was imperative that the hotel contain an area where the players could all be seated together as they ate, with their meals made to van Gaal’s specifications.

None of this is new, of course. Players are meant to train intensely, and ever since Arsène Wenger arrived in the Premier League, much more attention has been given to their diet. The way it’s being covered, however, suggests that David Moyes, and possibly even Sir Alex Ferguson, didn’t put quite as much emphasis on discipline in the squad.

That discipline has even been carried over to the pitch, with players ordered to speak only English while on the field. The way Mata says, “The manager says we have to speak in English,” implies such a rule did not exist last season. It makes sense when you think about van Gaal’s insistence that the team focus on unity — a common language is likely needed to ensure the team is moving as one.

Will this sort of discipline be enough for Manchester United to mount a title challenge? Or is there still other work that needs to be done?

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?