Monday 23 October 2017

Gary Neville: People are now believing that Van Gaal's philosophy works

Unlike their political counterparts, Mourinho and Van Gaal are delivering

Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho will square off once again at Stamford Bridge tonight
Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho will square off once again at Stamford Bridge tonight

Gary Neville

It is the coming together of the two men who aim to dominate England in the next few years.

The Red leader can be awkward in interviews, has had his issues this campaign and has not won anything. He is yet to show us what he could achieve on foreign soil but knows what he wants and is getting stronger.

He is challenging the Blue leader to take him on, hoping that mind games can disturb his opponent and make them falter. His aspiration is to go head to head and take on his counterpart punch for punch, particularly on the Left.

The Blue leader has seen domestic success but is unconvincing in Europe. He will be happy for a draw in the showdown and to win the battle elsewhere.

He will do anything to win, staying out of the debate, happy just to get over the line.

A former Tory leader once said when asked what their greatest achievement was: "New Labour." I can imagine Louis van Gaal, when answering the same question from a group of journalists, peering back from his desk and responding: "Mourinho."

I am loath to pitch leader v leader without good reason in a football contest where 11 v 11 have the ultimate say, but Chelsea v Manchester United is a match where I feel that the coaches will have a huge impact on the spectacle and outcome of this game.

Neither Mourinho nor Van Gaal is where they would ultimately want to be at the moment, but both are on a journey and heading in the right direction.

Diego Costa
Diego Costa

If, at the start of the season, you had offered Mourinho the Capital One Cup and Premier League, he would have struck the deal.

And, similarly, if you had pushed your hand towards Van Gaal offering him a Champions League place he would have shaken it vigorously.

But, ultimately, they both want to make their clubs superpowers by dominating the domestic scene and winning in Europe.

Having been at the Parc des Princes this week to watch Barcelona chew up Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, there is still clearly much work ahead for Mourinho and Van Gaal considering how a 10-man PSG dumped Chelsea out of the competition last month.

Those thoughts will be kicked into the long grass this weekend, though, as they try to outdo each other at Stamford Bridge.

There is an array of tactical questions and dilemmas for both managers to solve.

Will Van Gaal dilute his attacking instinct to further protect his full-backs, who are likely to be up against Eden Hazard and Willian?

How will he prepare United to defend against what could be the biggest threat this evening - Chelsea's set-pieces?

And as for Mourinho, will he blink and deploy John Obi Mikel or Kurt Zouma in midfield alongside Nemanja Matic to deal with Marouane Fellaini in that dangerous channel on United's left?


If he does, how will his team get hold of the ball without the rhythm of Cesc Fabregas in that deeper role and how will they feed an attack already hit by the loss of Diego Costa?

Manchetser United are in fine form
Manchetser United are in fine form

I could see United having 60 to 65 per cent of the ball if Mourinho does opt for this solution.

As a tactic, this wouldn't ordinarily worry the Chelsea manager, but the idea of Van Gaal going to Stamford Bridge and not only winning, but also dominating the ball, would maybe open up the wounds of his early encounters with Barcelona while coaching Real Madrid, when the Barca purists outplayed and beat his team well.

I'm pretty sure it would not be something that Roman Abramovich would enjoy.

Going back to leadership and in reference to both these managers, they can communicate their message very well, not just in words but in their behaviours and actions.

This is why they produce disciples who go into management - with Mourinho being Van Gaal's star pupil, having achieved so much since working under the Dutchman during his time at Barcelona.

One of the questions I hear most nowadays is where are the leaders?

The general response is that there are no leaders anymore.

But the question I ask is, 'Whose fault is that?' We are on a precipice in football at the moment in terms of teaching and coaching because the old autocratic leader is dead, the last of their kind dwindling.

However, for many modern-day coaches, there is confusion between how they were coached and knowing there is a new way, but being still unsure how to implement it.

As an example, imagine one of today's generation of coaches or managers faced with this dilemma: How do I stop the player walking off the coach with a cap on back to front?

1 Ask him to take it off or take it off his head yourself.

2 Allow him to continue and compromise your beliefs.

3 Wait till Monday and organise a meeting with the senior players and ask them to create a set of standards for themselves with your guidance and get the result you want.

Before you answer point 1, you must first understand the consequences of the coach's decision.

Getting the cap off his head. Will it make him play better? No.

Could it annoy him and put negativity in his mind pre-match, impact his performance and, in turn, the team's performance? Yes.

Will it annoy you pre-match? You're the coach, you shouldn't allow anything to take your mind away from winning the match. Is it best, then, to deal with it another time or is that weakness?

I'm not going to decide this for you, but this is a conundrum that faces the modern leader in every business.

For the majority of those who had the same football upbringing as me, we would have had the cap ripped off our head. However, you can be pretty sure that this approach nowadays would alienate you as a leader and damage your chances of success.

My two young girls are five and six and they bring their small pieces of homework home - maybe reading a book or some mathematical sums.

I remember a year ago, with my eldest, cutting across her to give the answer to a word she couldn't read. She was furious with me - "Don't tell me the answer," she said. "I wanted to know the letter so I can say the word."

I thought, 'wow'. As a kid, I wanted the answer and to get on with it, but modern education has changed and it is an upbringing where kids are told to go and find the answers, but are guided to the result. They learn better this way.


When a young, budding footballer leaves school, he expects the same approach, but that hasn't been football. We get told what to do and when to go and do it! But I expect football coaching to change in the next few years and adopt these methods, which are also more prevalent in other sports.

The players take ownership of a coach's clear set of principles and he facilitates the process.

Van Gaal and Mourinho have clear principles. They are engaging and gripping in public address, and believable.

But while Mourinho has benefited greatly from a receptive audience with fond memories of his last spell in charge - if he has sceptics at Chelsea, they have remained quiet - Van Gaal has had to fight to win people over and convince them that his blueprint, his manifesto, is the right one.

He has had to convince his own supporters that his philosophy is the right one and stuck rigidly to his beliefs when the number of doubters was growing.

That is what leadership is all about - being strong and unswayed by criticism and negativity - and people are now believing that Van Gaal's philosophy is one which works.

So as the Reds take on the Blues, which leader do you trust to get it right? (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Chelsea v Manchester United, live, Sky Sports 1, 5.30

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