Louis van Gaal must learn that Man United is a commercial monster - and touring globe part of the deal
Published 25/07/2014 | 16:26
Louis van Gaal will probably know the story of King Canute and his failed attempt to push back the tide.
It is a similar tale to that of the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dyke in a valiant effort to prevent the water from bursting through and deluging everything in its path.
The little Dutch boy ultimately won his battle to keep the flood at bay, but Van Gaal is more likely to end up like King Canute at Manchester United.
There are some things that can be resisted and some that cannot and, less than two weeks after starting work as United manager, Van Gaal is discovering that the commercial behemoth he now represents is an irresistible force.
Van Gaal has done little to hide his discomfort with the demands imposed on his squad during United's tour of the USA, which has now taken the club to Denver following the 7-0 victory against LA Galaxy in Pasadena on Wednesday evening.
The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has bemoaned the 'dreadful distances' his team must travel and complained about the jet-lag disrupting preparations.
At 62, Van Gaal has experienced life with football's superpowers, but as executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insisted earlier this week, managing even the likes of Barca and Bayern is no preparation for taking charge of United.
No fewer than 153 staff have made the trip across the Atlantic for the two-week tour and the club's major backers, notably Chevrolet, Aon and Bulova want, and are getting, plenty of bang for their buck during the club's first Stateside trip since 2011.
Van Gaal has demanded more control over arrangements for next summer's trip, likely to be a three week jaunt to Asia, and he will be given the final say on training and game arrangements.
But if he thinks his new employers will abandon their policy of touring the globe every July, it will be a huge misjudgment on his part.
Performing as football's equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters is, quite simply, what United do and what they are good at.
The club can command appearance fees in the region of £3m to play fixtures in destinations as diverse as Los Angeles and Tokyo, Sydney and Bangkok.
Major companies such as Chevrolet are prepared to invest figures as eye-watering as £53m a year to have their name emblazoned on United's shirt because of the 'eyeballs' they can attract in crucial markets in China and Africa.
When Aon succeeded AIG as shirt sponsor in 2010, it was because they saw United as the perfect vehicle to drive their brand in the Far East and the policy worked spectacularly.
So while Van Gaal is right to be protective of his area of command - the players on the pitch - the reality is that what happens on the field is only one part of the United operation.
It is ultimately the most important, as success on the pitch drives commercial growth off it, but it is not the be-all and end-all at United.
The huge financial sums generated by the club's voracious commercial team pay for Wayne Rooney's wages and give United the clout to sign the best players in the world.
So far, they have failed to invest their wealth in the transfer market in a manner befitting their self-styled status as the 'biggest club in the world', but the money is there to do that when they eventually unlock the coffers.
And when Van Gaal reaps the benefit of the cash reserves by attracting new players, the off-field demands that have irked him in the States may somehow prove worthwhile.
But whether that happens or not, the commercial monster will continue to grow. It is now too big to be shackled.
Van Gaal will have to learn to live with that and, while he will be able to tweak certain elements, he will undoubtedly find himself battling jet lag in Ho Chi Minh City or Shanghai this time next year as he prepares to send his team out for another lucrative friendly in a place and timezone far from the comfort of the club's Carrington training ground which, incidentally, carries the name of Aon thanks to a £180m sponsorship deal.
At United, there really is no escape from the sponsors and partners.