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Van Gaal to get second chance to set Man United right


Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal needs to address glaring problems at Old Trafford

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal needs to address glaring problems at Old Trafford


Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal needs to address glaring problems at Old Trafford

Van Gaal: Manchester United have spent too much money and time giving Louis van Gaal everything he has asked for this season to begin to contemplate dispensing with their Dutch manager this summer - even if he fails to achieve the club's target of Champions League qualification.

From the £59.7m British record signing of Angel di Maria to the expensively-installed Desso pitches at the club's Carrington training centre, Van Gaal has wanted for nothing at Old Trafford.

Efforts to play a lucrative friendly game in the Middle East were vetoed by Van Gaal in January, while this summer's pre-season tour of the United States has yet to be signed off because the 63-year-old continues to pore over the logistics and commercial demands which will be placed on his players.

From the first day of last summer's two-week trip to the States, when Van Gaal complained bitterly about the two-hour journey time between the team's Beverly Hills hotel to the Pasadena Rose Bowl for training 24 hours before the opening game against LA Galaxy, the United hierarchy, led by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, has danced to the manager's tune.

While David Moyes' appointment was made on the recommendation of Alex Ferguson, significantly Van Gaal is Woodward's man and he is determined to ensure he is given the time to succeed.

And having witnessed Ferguson's team of champions unravel under Moyes last season, Woodward and United's owners, the Glazer family, have ensured that a no-excuses culture exists under the new manager. That is why he will remain in charge at the end of this campaign to continue his work.

If United are in a similar position of being uncertain of Champions League qualification in 12 months' time, Van Gaal will be deemed to have had ample time to impose his personality and blueprint, yet that fork in the road is not yet on the horizon. Moyes was sacked last April because the Glazers and Woodward had become alarmed by the downward trajectory of the team under the Scot.

While there is an acceptance that Van Gaal may fail to secure a top-four finish this season, there are no such concerns of the squad nose-diving under the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.

There is, furthermore, an understanding that even the £150m invested on new players last summer was merely the first stage of rebuilding at Old Trafford.

More will be spent at the end of this season, with Van Gaal to be given the opportunity to recruit the players required to make his philosophy work rather than attempt to build a team with personnel that he does not sufficiently trust to perform as he demands.

When he was handed a list of potential signings after accepting the United job last May, Van Gaal (pictured, right) instructed Woodward to abandon moves for German midfielder Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas - Moyes had all but secured the services of Kroos from Bayern Munich prior to his dismissal - as neither player would fit his requirements.

Deals for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, which were also well advanced by Moyes, were, however, signed off by Van Gaal.

But with the Dutchman not starting work at Old Trafford until July 16, following his run to the World Cup semi-finals with Holland, United suffered a disrupted pre-season for the second consecutive year having allowed Moyes to start on July 1, rather than immediately after Ferguson's departure two months earlier at the end of the 2012-13 season.

With his delayed start and the necessity to overhaul the United squad to the extent that 14 first-team players were allowed to leave, United are determined that Van Gaal will be given the opportunity to oversee every aspect of this pre-season, including player recruitment, training schedules and warm-up fixtures.

Another summer of upheaval is regarded as a risk not worth taking, even if the summer is spent preparing for a Europa League campaign rather than a return to the Champions League.


Manchester United have discovered this season that the cost of being out of the Champions League amounts to just short of £50m in lost revenue.

While another year outside UEFA's premier competition could be withstood by United as a result of their robust income streams, even the most powerful commercial empire in world football will feel the squeeze if the blip extends into a prolonged absence.

Club-by-club earnings in the Champions League are set to leap by around £20m-a-year from next season due to the £897m three-year broadcasting deal struck by BT Sport in 2013. And with United's £75m-a-year kit deal with adidas - due to commence on August 1 - including a penalty reduction of £22.5m should the club miss out on Champions League qualification for two successive years during the 10-year partnership, a £50m black hole this season risks climbing towards £100m-a-season within two years should the club fail to return to the competition.

United's £53m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet, which began last summer, does not include such performance-related penalties.

But such is the importance placed on the Champions League by the Glazer family, Moyes would have been expected to resign as manager had he overseen two successive failures to qualify.

Moyes was sacked after missing out on his first attempt, but although is it not known whether Van Gaal's contract contains a similar clause, the club's financial forecasts to its investors are based on the assumption of a top-three Premier League finish.

Rebooting United after the disastrous Moyes experiment was the priority task handed to Van Gaal upon his appointment, however, and there is a grudging acceptance among senior figures that he may not drag the club back into the Champions League at the first attempt.

However, with 10 league games still to play, United sit in fourth position, two points clear of closest challengers Liverpool.

With sixth-placed Tottenham to visit Old Trafford on Sunday, ahead of a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool seven days later, the green shoots of recovery will be close to blossoming should Van Gaal mastermind two victories.

Two defeats, though, would leave United in danger of falling short and set the clock ticking on Van Gaal getting it right next season.

Summer transfers

Van Gaal will be given the funds to recruit at least four new players at Manchester United this summer, but uncertainty hangs over as many as 10 members of the first-team squad.

The United manager, who spent more than £150m on new players last summer, is prioritising reinforcements at right-back, centre-half, central midfield and centre-forward, with the prospect of signing a new goalkeeper also a possibility should David de Gea reject attempts to secure him to a new long-term contract.

United have regularly scouted the Southampton and England full-back Nathaniel Clyne, with the 23-year-old's progress over the past 18 months making him a target. They have also monitored the Athletic Bilbao centre-half Aymeric Laporte, the 20-year-old France U-21 international.

Van Gaal, who always has a ball-playing centre-half in his sides, remains a confirmed admirer of Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels who would fit this bill.

Van Gaal's long-term desire to take Kevin Strootman to Old Trafford has suffered a setback, however, with the Roma midfielder now sidelined until pre-season following knee surgery.

Strootman, who was a key figure in Van Gaal's Holland squad, returned to action only in November having suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury that forced him to miss the World Cup.

United's attacking options will be addressed this summer and the likelihood of forward Radamel Falcao being sent back to Monaco, rather than signed permanently at the cost of £43.2m, is expected to ensure that Robin van Persie remains at Old Trafford to see out the final year of his contract.

Van Persie, sidelined with an ankle injury, has been a huge disappointment this season, but with the 31-year-old suffering a delayed start to this campaign following the World Cup, and with injuries plaguing the Dutch forward, there is a hope that a free summer will see the player return refreshed in July.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani has been scouted by United for the past two seasons, while Van Gaal is also considering Burnley forward Danny Ings, who will be available for a compensation figure of around £5m when his Turf Moor contract expires in June.

Having allowed 14 players to leave Old Trafford last summer, Van Gaal must decide the futures of several players whose contracts expire in June or at the end of next season.

Michael Carrick will be offered a new contract, with Ashley Young also considered for a new deal, but the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Javier Hernandez and Rafael da Silva are all under threat of being sold. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Van goals - a 10-point plan for recovery

Improve his English

Louis van Gaal's eccentric pronunciation and belief he can translate his Dutch thoughts into English word for word make his delivery sound ridiculous. It isn't helping United's image.

Get communications advice

His hectoring tone when difficult questions are asked can send entire press conferences into irrelevant monologues.

Recover the free spirit

His philosophy that the team plays cerebrally rather than intuitively has robbed United of pieces of simple, unscripted, perhaps positionally undisciplined brilliance.

Liberate the Giggs spirit

There is no sense that he is at the core of the key decision-making. He is more valuable than Van Gaal seems to know.

Stretch defences

There is frequently no pace or height at the top of the team to stretch defences. That's making space tight for United's midfielders because the opposition don't back off.

Play Adnan Januzaj

Despite the suspicion he needs to be firmly managed, it is inconceivable the talents he showed last season aren't worth drawing on regularly.

Buy defenders

It's not Van Gaal's fault that he arrived too late to buy any last summer and that Mats Hummels was unwilling to join. But plans for reinforcements this summer need to have been laid.

Settle on a system

Van Gaal has used four, with three-man and four-man defences. However good your players, they can't settle when the system is continually changing.

Talk about your players

The occasional compliment would help. Some of Ashley Young's best displays have elicited no publicity.

Build around Di Maria

The Argentinian has become an ordinary player. If United can stretch sides, the space he flourished in at Real will be opened up to him again.

Ian Herbert