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'Van Gaal? In football he is right, you are wrong'

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JIMMY FLOYD HASSELBAINK'S list might not be far off that initially scribbled down by Ed Woodward: Mourinho, De Boer, Guardiola.

Yet Hasselbaink (right) is not drawing up a fantasy shortlist of candidates for Manchester United's chief executive – his roll-call is of those who have come under the influence of the favourite to become United's next manager.

They have learnt from Louis van Gaal, (below) a man according to Hasselbaink who sees everything and, in the words of a former team-mate, is certain he knows everything, too.

Hasselbaink is taking his own first steps as a coach at the same Royal Antwerp club where Van Gaal began his first-team career 41 years ago. "Of course," said Hasselbaink when asked whether his formative approach to coaching is swayed by the manager who chose him for the Netherlands. It is though, Hasselbaink points out, not just about him – far better to consider who else has passed through Van Gaal's hands over a 23-year managerial career.

"If you look at (Jose) Mourinho he has learnt from Van Gaal," says Hasselbaink. "If you look at Frank de Boer he has learnt from him – a lot of trainers have taken a lot from him, even (Pep) Guardiola has taken a lot from him. So he must be good."

Van Gaal would agree with that. It did not take long after his arrival at Belgium's oldest club in 1973, having failed to break through at Ajax, for the midfielder's team-mates to become aware of his sense of self-worth.

"When he came here when he was 18 or 19 he was already thinking and talking like a coach, and acting like a coach," said Roger van Gool, the former Belgium international. "When he thought something was wrong he would mention it to the coach. You could see he would become a coach even then. There was something about his character."

Van Gool describes Van Gaal, schooled in the 1970s Ajax traditions, as a better player than many give him credit for but limited by a lack of pace. He sat on the bench for most of his first season but had a run of games after injury to others.

Van Gaal then informed coach Guy Thys that if he dared drop him it would mean Van Gaal's "wife knew more about football than him". Thys, who was later to guide Belgium to the 1986 World Cup semi-finals, dropped him.

"Louis is good company," says Van Gool. "As a human being he is top. He has heart. The point is if you talk about football it is difficult. In football he is right and you are wrong. You can discuss football for hours and hours with him but he will never admit you are right.

"Of course, some people will not like him (because of his confidence). But he has a very good character. He wants to help people. He can listen. Too many people have the wrong impression about him."

Hasselbaink too sees more than one side to a man who once dropped his pants while manager of Bayern Munich to show Luca Toni he literally had the balls for the job.

"He can be hard but he is very soft on the other side," said Hasselbaink. "If players have a problem he is very helpful. He is big on family – if people have problems with family or some-thing like that he will always help.

"But he is a big discip-linarian. He has every-thing, he sees every-thing – and I mean everything – and he does not allow people to drop their standards."


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