Saturday 14 December 2019

Van Gaal: United job would be easier if I succeeded Ferguson, not Moyes

Van Gaal insists he inherited a broken team lacking in confidence and that it will take time to rebuild United as he lays out blueprint for the future

Manager Louis van Gaal of Manchester United in action during an open training session as part of their pre-season tour of the United States at FedExField on July 28, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. Photo: Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images
Manager Louis van Gaal of Manchester United in action during an open training session as part of their pre-season tour of the United States at FedExField on July 28, 2014 in Landover, Maryland. Photo: Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Mark Ogden

Louis Van Gaal believes it would have been easier to succeed Alex Ferguson than David Moyes as Manchester United manager after admitting he has inherited a squad "without confidence."

Van Gaal, speaking at length for the first time since beginning work as manager after taking the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals, has created an instant impression on the club's pre-season tour of the United States by overseeing victories against LA Galaxy and AS Roma prior to the match this morning against Inter Milan in Washington DC.

The Dutchman has warned, however, that his new team have only started out on their road to redemption following the humiliating campaign last season when United registered their lowest Premier League finish – seventh – and failed to qualify for Europe.

Van Gaal (62), has introduced a 3-4-1-2 system and prescribed twice-daily training sessions, with the emphasis on technique over physical condition.

But the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach insisted that succeeding Ferguson at his pomp would have been a more straightforward proposition than the one he now faced.

"I was already asked in the 1990s by Manchester United if I would join them because Ferguson wanted to quit at that time and then maybe I could succeed him," Van Gaal said.

"That would have been more easy at that time, I think.


"When you have to take a club that normally plays from first position, and now you are seventh, then you know the selection is not in balance or broken, or that the confidence or something like that is wrong.

"I don't think it (broken) is a hard word because I think when you are seventh, the team is not happy and unsatisfied and without confidence and, when you are like that, you are broken.

"I had to follow Bobby Robson at Barcelona. He had won three titles. That was easier for me than now, I think. It was the same with the Dutch squad.

"It was very difficult to succeed Bert van Marwijk in 2012 because two years before he was second in the World Cup and then he left a broken selection behind – so that was much more difficult than you think."

Van Gaal insisted, however, that his methods could revive United if the players continued to respond positively on the training ground and in games.

"The players under the direction of David Moyes is a lot of different to the players under the direction of Alex Ferguson, but also under the direction of me," said Van Gaal during a whirlwind press conference in which he told the world that Britain's most expensive teenage footballer – Luke Shaw – was unfit and that Wilfried Zaha would never be a Manchester United winger.

"So, now they have me: a new manager, so new chances for the players and they want to show themselves unbelievably much.

"It is nice that they want to do that, but we have to make a way of playing football that is not the same as before, and that is difficult for them.

"They have to perform under resistance (pressure). They have to decide (what to do with the ball) within one second and that is not easy.

"We have won two times and it makes it easier when you win than when you lose, whoever the opponent is."

Van Gaal, whose attention to detail since arriving has extended to areas as diverse as the dining arrangements of his players and the installation of cameras on the training pitch, has been well received by his squad, who have embraced his training methods.

The Dutchman admitted, however, that it could be another three months before his methods started to bear fruit.

"Every club where I have been, I have struggled for the first three months," Van Gaal said. "After that, they know what I want: how I am as a human being and also a manager.

"I am very direct. I say things as they are, so you have to adapt to that way of coaching. It's not so easy. And also the way I train and coach is in the brains and not the legs. You have seen my exercises, with all the tactical arguments and not without the tactical arguments.

"I am not for running for running's sake; I am for running with the ball, and they like that, of course. But the most important thing is, they have to know why we do things and, when they do, the player is not playing intuitively.

"A lot of players are playing intuitively, but I want them to think and know why they do something. That's a process that is difficult at first, in the first three months, and it takes time.

"In Bayern, after the first three months, we were sixth or seventh and were third in the Champions League group. We had to win at Juventus and we won that game and that was the turning point.

"When we survive the first three months, it will be the same as for me at Bayern."

The fascinating part of what is about to unfold will be to see who has what Van Gaal requires, because many of them will be young.

"The argument for that is when you use youth players of the club they know the culture of the club and they want to defend that culture and wear that culture and transfer that culture," he says.

"When you buy a player from outside you have to wait and see and not every player will fulfil your expectation, it is much more difficult, also for the player."

Van Gaal wants those who can both analyse and communicate, too.

"The most important thing about a person is that you know who you are and what you want," he said.

The Dutchman has been hand-picking individual players to appear at press conferences with him and was delighted with Chris Smalling's delivery on Tuesday night.

He listed those he launched at Barcelona: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and Thiago Motta. And at Bayern Munich: Thomas Mueller, David Alaba, Toni Kroos.

"When I buy, I buy players for the long term, not the short term," he said. "When you see Ajax I had the youngest team to win the Champions League with 17-, 18-, 19-year-old players."

Perhaps Ben Pearson, Andreas Pereira or Saidy Janko, in the United youth ranks, might come to suit his style. We'll know soon enough. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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