Louis van Gaal is the last person who needs advice when it comes to managing a major club. The Dutchman has worked with Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national team – he’s well acquainted with big pressures and even bigger expectations.
But Manchester United are a rather unique outfit. As the 62-year-old stated himself in his opening press conference, they are the biggest club in the world.
Thus, to be successful at Old Trafford, there are some key principles Louis van Gaal must stick to. And just in case he happens to be a secret fan of Football FanCast, we’ve decided to list FIVE of them.
For a club once immortalised by Alan Hansen’s ill-fated quip ‘you can’t win anything with kids’, Manchester United’s youth policy has lost its way in recent years.
Ryan Giggs sought to readdress that balance during his brief caretaker spell, promoting Tom Lawrence and James Wilson to great effect, with the latter netting twice against Southampton. He also netted this belter in the U21 league back in April:
The duo are by no means the only talented youngsters in the Red Devils squad – they’re joined by Nick Powell, Will Keane, Michael Keane and Wilfried Zaha to name a few, not to mention Belgian whizzkid Adnan Januzaj, the architect of this strike:
Manchester United must rediscover their faith in youth and Louis van Gaal is undoubtedly the right man for the job. His 1995 Champions League-winning Ajax side had an average age of just 23.
The 62-year-old has already shown a commitment to cause too with the signings of 18 year-old Luke Shaw and 24 year-old Ander Herrera, the latter being in sensational form during United’s 7-0 romping of LA Galaxy during their pre-season tour in the USA. 20 year-old Reece James also netted twice, including this confident finish:
David Moyes was lamented for his apparent ‘negative’ tactics last season, but rather than Manchester United setting up too defensively, a more intrinsic flaw was a lack of fluidity between departments.
In sharp contrast, Liverpool and Manchester City both adopted free-flowing philosophies last season, resulting in both clubs finishing the campaign with over 100 league goals each.
Louis van Gaal has already sought to remedy that somewhat, starting with this 3-5-2 formation against LA Galaxy:
— FansAllStar Football (@FASfootball) July 24, 2014
…but by no means sticking to it, with Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw the pivots between a back five and a back four. Likewise, Darren Fletcher featured at centre-back in the second half whilst Ashley Young and Nani took on striking roles to great effect. The England international netted twice, including this strike:
This is precisely the level of invention the Red Devils lacked under Moyes. If van Gaal can produce the same level of creativity and tactical nous on a weekly basis, he will be a success at Old Trafford.
As viewable below, in comparison to Manchester United’s usual standards, their home form last season was absolutely shocking:
Sir Alex Ferguson built Old Trafford as an uber fortress – a ground even the best teams in Europe fretted coming to, and if Louis van Gaal is to be successful with the Red Devils he has to revive that entrenched fear.
The psychological impact cannot be overstated – how many times have we witnessed United clinch vital points at home in the final minutes of any given match?
That fear factor was lost under Moyes – for the first time in decades, fans were leaving Old Trafford early. LvG must revert back to former times where stoppage-time goals at home were the norm for the Red Devils:
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) March 19, 2014
David Moyes’ biggest mistake at Old Trafford was failing to distance himself from Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who retired as one of the greatest managers in English football history. Rather, he turned up at Carrington with the mandate of continuing the retired Scot’s policies as closely as possible.
Of course, there are a number of similarities between Louis van Gaal and Fergie which many people have already picked up on, including Ryan Giggs and the United gaffer himself:
Van Gaal: “I have a strong philosophy. Sir Alex Ferguson did too, and he won a lot of titles. I hope I can do that.” #mufc
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 17, 2014
— Barclays League (@BarclaysLeague) July 25, 2014
I like the way Van Gaal does his press conferences, reminds of the way Fergie use to talk to the press and media every friday #MUFC
— Van Persie (@carrick_fan) July 22, 2014
But if van Gaal is to be successful at Old Trafford, he must find a way to differentiate from Manchester United’s past, be it philosophy, playing personnel or leadership style.
Constant comparisons with one of the game’s greats will do him no favours – LVG must make everybody realise that the Red Devils have reached the post-Ferguson era by taking the club in a different direction.
Perhaps this point goes without saying, and if there’s any manager in world football who knows how to curb player power, it’s undoubtedly Louis van Gaal:
Rivaldo “I want to play behind the strikers.’ Van Gaal ‘Right. that’s your decision’ and he sat on the bench – only the manager would decide
— Whitehouse Address (@The_W_Address) July 19, 2014
Van Gaal: Most of the players are saying lovely things about me. There are also players who are very angry. Ribéry, Toni, Stoichkov &Rivaldo
— James Robson (@JamesRobsonMEN) June 3, 2014
But in my opinion at least, Wayne Rooney’s influence is beginning to grow disproportionate at Old Trafford. He’s made two transfer requests in the last four years, soon followed by unprecedented contracts.
No doubt, the 28 year-old has great quality:
But it’s time Louis van Gaal made it clear that no player is bigger than Manchester United and only he rules the roost – even if that results in selling Wayne Rooney.