Sport Premier League

Tuesday 12 November 2019

John Giles: I like ruthless Louis van Gaal but Mourinho's the man for me

Read John Giles' column every Wednesday and Friday exclusively in The Herald

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal

It's all about Louis van Gaal. My gut instinct tells me that Jose Mourinho and Chelsea will successfully defend their Premier League title but I'm certain that the big story line for the season will be the Dutchman.

Throughout the summer, Van Gaal has never been far from a headline. Manchester United seem to have been in the middle of every transfer, every big money deal. He's not finished yet.

I expect that Manchester United will sign the marquee name he wants and that he will have two players for every position by the end of August.

My concern about Van Gaal is focused completely on what he might or might not do with all of these players when he puts them on the pitch.

Last season, I have to admit to being confused by him. I liked what I saw in his dealings with the outside world through the media and I liked the way he grabbed control of a massive institution and began to bend it to his will.

That's a great ability for any manager in any sphere and it is very obvious that Van Gaal carries authority naturally and also knows how to use it.

Just look at the way he dealt with Robin van Persie. Van Gaal threw him out this summer and there is no other way to describe it.

Read more: Jose Mourinho takes fresh swipe at Arsene Wenger over handshake snub

Van Persie claimed that he felt betrayed and I had to laugh at that. He didn't do his job last season and it wasn't the first time I found myself saying that about him. Great talent, great skill but his heart is brittle.

So Van Gaal exerted his authority and got rid of someone he believed was not doing it for him which was great to see and one of the reasons I like him a great deal.

But then I go back to last season and I remember that Van Gaal told us that three-at-the-back was the way forward and that he had to find some new players to fit the system.

First, his new players needed three months to soak up his method and then it was a season. It even drifted to two years at one point until an accident of injuries and suspensions forced him to play 4-4-2 and suddenly Manchester United were title contenders.

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That bothers me. I'm not entirely convinced that Van Gaal has the scale of football knowledge to match the size of his personality.

I don't doubt Jose Mourinho's football nous. He is the man to beat again this season and although he hasn't been throwing money around like confetti, he will still start the season with a fantastic squad.

The one big name he has brought in is Radamel Falcao and I am really looking forward to watching him fit into Chelsea's set-up.

It will be a great ready-reckoner between Mourinho and Van Gaal. If Falcao starts shooting the lights out for Chelsea, the Dutchman's judgement will be questioned and the reverse if he shoots blanks.

I don't think the player got a decent chance at Old Trafford and again, that seems to me to be a poor reflection on Van Gaal who couldn't find a way to tap into his very obvious ability.

Manuel Pellegrini didn't bring the most out of his players either last season and I am surprised that he is still the manager but Manchester City have been in the market and buying some very handy players so I have to put them in the mix.

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Everyone will want to see how Raheem Sterling gets on and I for one would not be surprised if he has a brilliant season. I think he is a genuine player and I believe he was very poorly treated by Liverpool in the last eight months.

He is in now in a different environment with a big point to prove and I would be very confident that he will shine for Manchester City.

With Liverpool, I'm not sure what to think. I see that Mario Balotelli is still at the club and I'm tempted to leave it at that and move on to Arsenal but that would be too simplistic.

I'm amazed that he is still there though. Perhaps Liverpool's American owners are embarrassed by that bit of business and believe that getting rid of him would simply show them to be very naive.

Either way, his presence in Liverpool squad doesn't bode well and although Liverpool have spent money this summer, I wouldn't be very confident about Brendan Rodgers' chances of surviving the season.

Which brings me to Arsenal and the great survivor, Arsene Wenger. I am delighted that the Premier League has at least three men whose word is law - Mourinho, Van Gaal and the Gunners' manager - and who will only work on their terms. Not so long when Alex Ferguson announced his retirement, I truly believed that the Premier League would be populated entirely by Directors of Football and that independently minded managers were a dying breed. I'm happy to be able to say that, temporarily at least, that is not the case.

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This is the first summer in many that Arsenal fans have not had to face the scary prospect of a new season without Wenger. There has been no speculation about his position and I'm glad about that.

Can he finally rediscover the form and momentum which won him the title all those years ago? Unfortunately, I don't think so.

Arsenal are still deficient in key areas, most notably at the back and I now believe that Wenger will never accept that you cannot win a Premier League with eight fantastic midfielders but no defenders.

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