Monday 9 December 2019

Louis Van Gaal and Glazers are on a collision course

Louis van Gaal with Bobby Charlton
Louis van Gaal with Bobby Charlton
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal


When Louis van Gaal vented his frustration with the commercial demands of Manchester United in Los Angeles last week, it was no surprise to one former senior executive at a leading Premier League club with experience of dealing with Dutch coaches.

"Once the Dutch get settled in, they only want it their way," he said. "They want to go to Austria every pre-season because they have never worked at clubs like United. They won't change. It's a big job for United to manage Van Gaal.

" Less than two weeks after arriving at United, there is a sense of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object with Van Gaal and the Glazer family's commercial behemoth at Old Trafford.

In public, Van Gaal has done little to hide his annoyance with the schedule imposed on his squad during United's two-week tour of the United States, and he has been equally forceful behind the scenes.

Just like David Moyes 12 months ago, Van Gaal has inherited a pre-season campaign from his predecessor.

Moyes was exasperated last summer by the 24,000-mile jaunt signed off by Alex Ferguson, which saw United embark on their most gruelling-ever tour to destinations as far flung as Bangkok, Sydney and Osaka.

Van Gaal has spoken of the "dreadful distances" his squad must travel and the concerns over the disruption caused by jet-lag.

The Dutchman did not even mention the searing heat and altitude his players encountered in Denver last night when facing AS Roma.

However, Van Gaal's grumbles have led to hurried tweaks to the itinerary that saw United's staff book more than 20 rooms at a Holiday Inn in Los Angeles so the players could sleep in the afternoon during the break between morning and evening training sessions.

Despite the opulence of United's five-star base at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Van Gaal regarded the one-hour journey between hotel and training ground as too long. Media arrangements have also been changed to suit Van Gaal, with training now taking place before press conferences rather than afterwards to allow players to head back to their base rather than waiting around on a coach. With Van Gaal unimpressed with the food provided for his players in California, United's club chef was sent to Denver 24 hours ahead of the squad to spell out the manager's requirements to the kitchen staff at the team's Four Seasons Hotel lodgings in the city.

All of the above are comparatively minor changes to a schedule signed off by Ryan Giggs during his spell as caretaker-manager, but Van Gaal has already made clear his determination to have the final say on next summer's tour. He will not, however, be handed a free rein.

United dance to the tune of their sponsors in pre-season, but with the likes of Chevrolet, Aon, Bulova and, from next summer, Adidas pumping more than £1bn into the club's coffers over the duration of their partnership agreements, they are clearly entitled to expect plenty of bang for their buck.

Due to United's determination, one driven by the Glazers, to plant their flag firmly in the American sporting landscape, senior figures expect the club to return to the States next summer - a provisional itinerary is believed to have been drawn up already, with Chicago, New York and Dallas included, which should at least satisfy Van Gaal's demands for top-class facilities. The prospect of United identifying one city as their base and flying to and from venues is expected to be a Van Gaal requirement, and one which will likely be agreed by the club, but the real travel nightmare will come when the team next visits the Far East.

Chevrolet, whose £53m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal will be officially launched in Detroit next week, have made it clear that United's popularity in Asia was the key factor in their decision to back the club and they will want the Chevrolet logo running across pitches in Beijing and Bangkok before too long."Chevrolet as a global brand is really trying to strengthen our position in a lot of the emerging markets," Megan Stooke, director of global marketing for General Motors, said.

"When you look at the fan base of Manchester United, one of the world's most popular sports brands, we saw a great alignment in those markets." Aon, whose £180m deal with United extends to 2021, has already experienced the power of the club as a Trojan Horse in the Far East. David Prosperi, Aon's global communications director, said: "When we launched 
the sponsorship in June of 2010, hits to our website 
increased over 150 per cent."

Aon, which claims that 34 per cent of new business is driven by its link to United, has arranged 25 events with the club during the American tour involving 1,700 clients. They are the kind of events that require the club's presence in cities across the globe and the demand will not diminish. Van Gaal will simply have to learn to live with that as best as he can.

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