Louis van Gaal – Manchester United anniversary
Louis van Gaal started his new assignment as Manchester United’s headcoach one year ago, on 16th of July 2014, after a successful World Cup campaign with Netherlands. The cultured Dutch manager came to bring back success to the most storied club in England that became a sinking boat after Sir Alex Ferguson‘s departure. Louis van Gaal won title leagues at every club he managed – Ajax, Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich – so Man Utd considered him the the right man to rebuild the team.
Looking over the statistics (despite being very circumstantial) we can see that Louis van Gaal has a 51.16% win record in his first Premier League season, which is not that bad compared to the first 365 days of Arsene Wenger (44.68%), but not as good as Gianluca Vialli’s season (56.36%) or Carlo Ancelotti’s (69.64%). The best win ratios in the first season are the ones of Jose Mourinho (71.19%) and Manuel Pellegrini’s (71.93), but they took charge of teams that were already built and just needed the right guidance in order to succeed. On the other hand, Louis van Gaal embarked on journey of reconstruction for long term.
Maybe in terms of results, the Dutch manager achieved the bare minimum – a 4th place, but his real results can be seen outside the pitch. He focused on the training ground to get the best out of his players, he changed the pre-season schedule and started to revamp Manchester United’s squad. If we look at the players that Van Gaal sold or released: Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic (once one of the best central defenders duo in the world), Patrice Evra (maybe a rushed decision because the Frenchman showed for Juventus that he is still good), Darren Fletcher and Anderson (who were no longer at their peak of their career), Shinji Kagawa (a marketing move of Alex Fergusson, however he did not get many minutes on the pitch), Nani and Van Persie (former was first loaned and finally sold, while the latter was sometimes decisive for Man Utd, but struggled with injuries, fitness and form). Looking at all these big names that were sold we can see that Louis van Gaal tried to get rid of Ferguson’s old guard and inject fresh talent. The Dutchman signed rising stars like Luke Shaw, Marcus Rojo, Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Daley Blind or Ander Herrera. Moreover, in his effort to meld this fresh talent with experience, Louis van Gaal signed some super stars like Falcao (who did not confirm in Premier League yet, his loan spell at Chelsea will say if he is still one the best strikers in world or just a player who is looking for the one who pays the highest salary), Angel Di Maria (also did not settle very well in England) or Bastian Schweisteinger.
Louis van Gaal’s approach is very similar to Fergusson’s. The Dutchman tries to impose his philosophy. He gave a fair chance to everybody, evaluated their performance and based on that started to shape his regular team. That is why, Manchester United had a rather bad start of the season. Moreover, the Dutch manager tried to use a 3-5-2 system, which he used successfully during World Cup, but without much success for Man Utd. As a result, he tried several other tactical systems in order to seem what fits best the team. Louis van Gaal is know for his ability to promote young talents (remember his amazing Ajax squad with Van der Saar, Kluivert, De Boers brothers, Davids, Overmars) and find a more suitable position for established players (when the Dutchman took charge of Bayern Munich he decided to move Schweistenger from the left wing in the central area of the midfield). Some of the finest talents promoted by Van Gaal are Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Motta, Carles Puyol, Thomas Muller and David Alaba.
The Dutch manager tries to ensure that he builds a young talented squad, where 2 players will compete on one position. We can see that despite his affinities, Van Gaal is ready to let go his favorite players when they do not perform as expected (see Van Persie). Regardless, the Dutchman does not make any concession to anyone, he is not interested in the name of the player as long as the player does not fit Van Gaal’s philosophy (see Falcao, see Valdes).
Overall, Louis van Gaal had a tough year, but he is more looking for the future than to what he had achieved. Let’s not forget that he is the man who built Bayern’s team that managed the historic triple one year after his departure. Not only that he promotes youngsters (as it is the case of Blackett, Powell or McNair), but he can also discover a suitable position for different players. The only negative aspect that anyone can say to him is the fact that he transferred players worth € 300 million in one year. I believe that considering his vast experience, Louis van Gaal will win the league in a 4th nation as well: England.