Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has laid down the gauntlet to his players: By the end of the season everyone must speak English.
(Cue Wayne Rooney wiping a cold sweat from his brow.)
Last year it wasn’t such a problem. David de Gea has come a long way in learning English and Juan Mata joined the club already fluent in the tongue.
But, with the new influx of Spanish speakers – Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao – there is a tendency for the group to communicate in the native tongue, even though some of them (Falcao) are quite adept at speaking English.
Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law and is putting those not so comfortable with English into classes. The Dutchman told Manchester Evening News:
“You know already that all the Spanish players have lessons in English so we have started already more than two weeks. We are only two weeks in this country because we were in the USA and after that we had the international week. But I can speak Spanish so it is better to communicate sometimes on the pitch in Spanish. But they shall learn English within one year, I promise.”
As noted by Van Gaal, knowledge of Spanish among teammates can provide huge advantages in terms of communicating on the pitch when playing opposition who are not familiar with the language. The problem, however, is that some players on your own team may not understand the language and, moreover, that when such behavior is permitted without intervention, cliques can occur.
And cliques, quite obviously, don’t work well under a guy like Van Gaal.