Van Gaal can ‘break world transfer record’
Ed Woodward, the man responsible for hiring Louis Van Gaal to Old Trafford, insists there is a feel-good factor surrounding what he describes as 'the biggest club in the world'
Louis van Gaal takes charge of Manchester United for the first time in the early hours of Thursday morning with the man who sealed his appointment claiming that the Dutchman’s “aura” is already banishing memories of David Moyes’s disastrous year-long reign as manager.
Exactly a week after arriving at Old Trafford following his run to the World Cup semi-finals with Holland, Van Gaal’s United face LA Galaxy at the Pasadena Rose Bowl aiming to take their first steps towards erasing from memory a miserable campaign last season.
Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, insisted that the Dutchman’s arrival had generated a feel-good factor within the club, claiming that the 62-year-old’s philosophy was “in sync” with the traditions of a club still coming to terms with the underachievement and turmoil of last season which led to the team finishing seventh in the Premier League and missing out on European qualification for the first time since the Eighties.
“As I look back, I just feel a lot more positivity in terms of this coming season,” Woodward said.
“Part of that is simply because of what Louis did at the World Cup because I think it’s given us a bit of an aura around him. He was one of the managers at the World Cup who was proactive. He did more things in games that gave him a bigger profile.
“By some distance, his is the most important job in the club and we didn’t take the decision lightly. We ran a process and we were looking for a manager who would sync with the Manchester United philosophy.
“If you pause and take a step back, it is attacking football, it is giving youth a chance – and both of those things are core to Louis’s philosophy of football – and a track record.
"He brings so much energy to this that we felt he was the right choice. I’m expecting Louis to do well. He has impressed everyone around the club since he started – owners, players, coaching staff, Ryan Giggs, all the backroom staff. There is a real positive energy and buzz around the place.”
Woodward, speaking at United’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel base made famous by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, cuts a more settled figure than 12 months ago, when his elevation to the top job at Old Trafford coincided with Moyes’s arrival and the departures of Sir Alex Ferguson and the chief executive David Gill.
Although part of the decision-making process which appointed Moyes, Woodward’s confident and competitive personality rarely chimed with the more fretful nature of the former Everton manager and Van Gaal’s arrival appears to ensure a shared outlook from manager and chief executive.
But after being criticised for his dealings in the transfer market last summer, Woodward admitted that last year would have been easier had Ferguson extended his reign as manager by one more season.
“It was a challenging year,” Woodward said. “In an ideal situation, I would have worked with Alex for a year. Most of the job wasn’t a surprise. I’ve been at the club nine years and spent a lot of time talking to David Gill about what it was like, but I don’t think I can say I walked in and knew everything. I absolutely didn’t. There were a lot of new things to deal with.”
A year on, regardless of United’s success in landing a £750 million kit deal with Adidas, Woodward admitted that he was yet to convince some of his doubters.
“You gain credibility through experience, through time. You can’t expect credibility from day one and I wouldn’t expect that.
“Criticism comes with the job, but you take the rough with the smooth and there are some amazing things about this job.
"I have a lot of support from the board and I am confident we have got clarity in what we are doing, we have long-term plans. You can’t be distracted by short-term problems, but the pressure and expectations that come with the job are big. That is what makes this an exciting role to take.”
Woodward’s search for credibility would be accelerated by an elite signing following a period of underinvestment in the squad which contributed to the club’s decline last season.
But while the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich continue to bolster their squads with stellar signings, Woodward insists United can and will compete and maintains that the club is the “biggest in the world”.
“There is a philosophy in the club about wanting to see the best players playing for Manchester United,” he said.
“But we are not imposing that on anybody. It was never imposed on Sir Alex or David and it is not going to be imposed on Louis.
“The reality is that we’re not afraid of spending significant amounts of money in the transfer market. Whether it’s a record or not doesn’t really resonate with us.
"What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United.
“The club is not afraid of [spending £60 million-£70 million] to do that. There is no budget, there is money. We are in a very strong financial position and we can make big signings.
“Seventh, as Louis said very eloquently, is not the biggest, but what the Adidas deal shows, and what we are seeing from a commercial perspective, also from talking to agents and players about wanting to come to us, is that we are the biggest club in the world. There is no question in my mind about that.”