Thursday 5 December 2019

Van Gaal targets title

Louis van Gaal, left, has hailed his Manchester United job as 'a great challenge'
Louis van Gaal, left, has hailed his Manchester United job as 'a great challenge'

Louis van Gaal presented his Manchester United philosophy to the world and set his sights on the Barclays Premier League title.

The Dutchman was greeted by a hail of flashbulbs as he made his public debut as United manager with a press conference at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal appeared determined not to state too firm expectations for his first season but, asked whether simply making the Champions League would be adequate, he made it clear he is aiming for top spot.

"First I have to see how quickly the players can pick up my philosophy," he said. "I haven't worked with most of them and it is very important that there is a click between the players and the manager.

"For me, the challenge is always first and not fourth."

Van Gaal arrived in Manchester on Wednesday only four days after guiding Holland to a third-placed finish at the World Cup.

The former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax boss posed for pictures alongside assistant manager Ryan Giggs and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward before being officially unveiled to the media on Thursday.

Van Gaal's principal concern after his first 24 hours in charge appears to be satisfying the commercial demands that will be placed upon him.

On Friday he will fly out to the USA with the players who are not on a post-World Cup break for a pre-season tour comprising matches against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Van Gaal said: "It's the biggest club of the world. In two days I know already how important Manchester United is.

"I have to prepare a team and I have to adapt to this big club. I will do my utmost. It will not be easy, but when you see my career, you can see what I have won. The future will show if I can do that again.

"I have met a lot of people and when you see that kind of people who love the club, it's a big family. They expect a lot of me, they are very excited to meet me, but can I fulfil that expectation?

"I think I can but because of the greatness of this club, it's also much more difficult than at another club.

"This club is also guided in the commercial way, and we have to fulfil that also, and it is not always possible to fulfil the commercial expectations and the football expectations. That is my big challenge I think."

Many pundits believe United's squad needs a major overhaul after the disappointment of last season's seventh-placed finish, which cost David Moyes his job after less than a year.

They look especially short of authority at the back after the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with left-back Luke Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera the only signings so far.

A number of players are likely to be playing for their futures on the US tour, but Van Gaal insisted he would give all his current squad the chance to prove themselves.

"My method is always the same," he said. "I want to look at the players. In the first three or four weeks I want to see what they can do.

"Maybe I shall buy other players. The players that we have bought now, Shaw and Herrera were already on the list, so I gave my approval because I like them. First I want to see the players performing my philosophy."

Another issue Van Gaal will take time over is deciding who will be his captain.

Robin van Persie has been heavily linked with the role after wearing the armband for Holland, while Van Gaal also confirmed he wants to find backroom roles for Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville.

Almost exactly a year ago, Moyes was sat in the same room giving his vision of a future with United, but on Thursday his duties extended to watching the Open not far away at Hoylake.

It was impossible not to note the contrast between the two men.

Van Gaal insisted he is not the egotist he is often presented as but he was quick to put journalists in their place during a generally good-spirited 22 minutes.

"I'm a democratic and empathetic human being," he said. "Of course I have a strong personality but the other characteristics are more important.

"The media wants to show (the autocratic) part of the personality but that part is (very small). When it is repeated always then everybody thinks like that.

"Autocratic and a strong personality is not the same. I have a strong philosophy and every year I have trained it is confirming that philosophy.

"Sir Alex (Ferguson) also has a strong philosophy and it was always confirmed because he won a lot of titles with Manchester United. I hope I can do that."

Moyes was never able to step out of the shadow of Ferguson, the Scot an ever more looming presence from the directors' box as the season went on.

That seems unlikely to be the case with Van Gaal, who said of his fellow managerial great: "He called me to congratulate me and we have talked.

"We know each other very well and I will drink coffee and drink wine with him - maybe the best wine."

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