Ronald Koeman pours scorn on old foe Louis van Gaal's need for time
Ronald Koeman says it is a myth that managers need time to turn round a new club.
The Dutchman has made an impressive start to his tenure at Southampton and, when he looks at his compatriot and rival Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, he wonders why he is not doing better.
Van Gaal has said that whenever he goes into a new club, he expects to make a slow start as the players need time to adjust to his demands. But ahead of Southampton's visit to Old Trafford this afternoon - a game of significance in the battle for Champions League places - Koeman gave short shrift to the notion.
"It's up to him," Koeman said. "If he needs two years more, give him two years more. Of course, maybe he is doing different to other managers but I don't believe in football that you need two years or one year. No. It's all about the qualities of the players. The better the players, the easier it is for the manager.
"It's an easy answer, as a manager, to say: 'I need time.' I think sometimes they are more excuses. Football is the same in Holland, in Germany. The players are better in Germany and England than we have in Holland, most of the players.
"But my job as a manager [at Southampton] is not so different to what I did in the last three years in Feyenoord - managing a football team. I have better players than I had in the last three seasons. It has to be easier, that adaptation."
Koeman was asked whether he felt United ought to be closer to Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League table. "In question of individual quality of the players, yes," he replied. "I think that Man United is stronger now because they are more used to that system that they play and they have less injuries. I think they are eight or nine games unbeaten. [It is 11]. That brings confidence to the players. If you have Di Maria, you have Falcao, you have Van Persie, you have Rooney, you have Mata . . . come on, please. You have great players."
Koeman made it plain that he felt United should be pushing for the championship. "It is normal that they will fight for titles," he said. "They have to. How can you spend that money, how can you sign that kind of player and not be fighting to win titles? Everything is up to Man United. They have a very successful coach, they have great players, they have money, they have got great public [support], a great stadium. It is normal that you win titles."
This was not so much a reopening of Koeman's well-documented feud with Van Gaal as a demonstration of his devil-may-care attitude and self-assurance. It should be said that the pair are no longer at daggers drawn, as they were back in the Ajax days. "We had some problems in the past but we shake hands," Koeman said.
Koeman is not afraid to say what he thinks, which makes him box office and, as momentum surges at Southampton, a galvanising focal point. He seems to radiate confidence.
Koeman admitted he could not have expected to be shooting at the top four when he arrived last summer and a fistful of key players were sold.
"At that time players were a little bit afraid about the situation," Koeman said. "If you are like [Jose] Fonte, you are the captain of the team and you see four, five, six players out of the dressing room, of course you have reasons to be afraid. My job was to calm that and give the players confidence."
The turnaround has been startling and Koeman is relaxed but emboldened. He has seen nothing over the first 20 games of the league season to trouble him. Southampton are up there on merit.
He has added Eljero Elia on loan from Werder Bremen - the winger could make his debut today - and Koeman might make one more signing this month. Jack Cork, who is back to fitness, has been offered a new contract and Nathaniel Clyne is also fit again.
Koeman simply posed the question that more and more people seem to be posing of Southampton and their ability to stay the course. "Why not?" he said.
Sunday Indo Sport