Ranking Louis Van Gaal's Greatest Achievements in Management

Jerrad Peters@@jerradpetersWorld Football Staff WriterApril 29, 2014

Ranking Louis Van Gaal's Greatest Achievements in Management

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    Michael Sohn

    Rumours that current Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal will shortly fill the vacancy at Manchester United continue to swirl, with the Guardian reporting the 62-year-old is hopeful of agreeing terms at Old Trafford by May 7.

    But what sort of pedigree would the Dutchman be bringing to the soon-to-be-dethroned Premier League champions?

    The following slideshow will rank his achievements in management, which range from domestic, continental and international successes to a prestigious order of chivalry.

    Few football managers, past or present, measure up to the illustrious Van Gaal, as these slides overwhelmingly confirm.

15. 2010 Champions League Final

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    Bayern Munich almost won a historic treble in 2010 when they fell just short at the final hurdle in the UEFA Champions League.

    Having already been crowned Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal champions, the Bavarian giants faced Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the May 22 final and fell 2-0 to a pair of Diego Milito goals.

    Louis Van Gaal's side had crushed Lyon in the semi-finals of the competition and in previous rounds overcame Manchester United and Fiorentina.

14. 1996 Champions League Final

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    Louis Van Gaal's second appearance in a Champions League Final, and first defeat, came only a year after he had delivered a fourth European Cup for Ajax.

    On May 22, 1996, the Dutch giants lost their title to Juventus on penalties and in so doing missed out on a chance to become the first team in the Champions League era to defend the trophy successfully.

    They made quite the impression in the competition, though, topping a group that also included Real Madrid and beating Panathinaikos and Borussia Dortmund in the knockout stages.

13. 1993 KNVB Cup

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    Van Gaal's first piece of domestic silverware as a manager was the KNVB Cup, which he won while in charge of Ajax on May 20, 1993.

    Ajax destroyed SC Heerenveen in Rotterdam that night, with Marc Overmars bagging a brace in a 6-2 win.

12. 1995 Intercontinental Cup

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    Paulo Duarte

    Two of world football's up-and-coming managers squared off in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup when Champions League winner Louis Van Gaal faced Copa Libertadores champion Luiz Felipe Scolari in Tokyo.

    The match between Ajax and Gremio ended 0-0 after 120 minutes, and the drama only increased when Patrick Kluivert missed the Dutch side's first penalty.

    But Gremio were no better from the spot, and Danny Blind's successful spot-kick saw Ajax become world champions.

11. 2014 World Cup Qualification

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Van Gaal's most recent accomplishment was guiding the Netherlands into the 2014 FIFA World Cup as the UEFA region's Group D winners.

    Finishing comfortably atop a bracket that also included Romania, Hungary and Turkey, Van Gaal's side dropped only two points from 10 matches while conceding just five goals over the course of the competition.

    The Dutch will now go up against Spain, Chile and Australia in Brazil.

10. 1996 Eredivisie

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    Van Gaal's third Eredivisie title with Ajax saw his side pip free-scoring PSV to first place in the final weeks of the season.

    Patrick Kluivert finished top scorer with 15 goals, and the Dutch giants also claimed domestic and UEFA Super Cups as well as the Intercontinental Cup over the course of the campaign.

9. 1994 Eredivisie

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    Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

    Ajax won their first title under Louis van Gaal in 1994 after finishing just three points above arch-rivals Feyenoord in the Eredivisie table.

    It was the Amsterdam outfit's first championship since 1990 and their second in 19 years, and it introduced the football world to the likes of Marc Overmars, Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf, Edwin Van Der Sar and countless other homegrown players who would shortly take Europe by storm.

    Finland international Jari Litmanen paced the side with 26 goals in the league that season.

8. 1999 La Liga

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Barcelona retained their Primera Division title in 1999 after finishing an impressive 11 points above runners-up Real Madrid in the Spanish top flight.

    A summer shopping spree had seen Van Gaal acquire five Dutch internationals—including Ronald and Frank de Boer and Patrick Kluivert, as well as the Argentine Mauricio Pellegrino.

    They enhanced a squad already comprised of the likes of Rivaldo and Luis Figo, and Rivaldo was awarded the Ballon d'Or for his exploits that season.

7. 1992 UEFA Cup

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    Before their Eredivisie dominance and the famous Champions League victory, Van Gaal's Ajax won the old UEFA Cup in 1992.

    Their route to the final included wins over Sweden's Orebro, Germany's Rot-Weiss Erfurt, Spain's Osasuna, Belgium's Gent and Italy's Genoa.

    Then, over two legs against fellow finalists Torino, they prevailed on away goals thanks to a 2-2 victory at the Stadio delle Alpi.

6. 1995 Eredivisie

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    The 1994-95 Eredivisie season saw the arrival of a young Ronaldo at PSV Eindhoven, and the Brazilian led the division with 30 goals.

    But it was Van Gaal and Ajax who claimed the top prize, finishing seven points above Roda to win the league.

    And they did it without losing a single match—winning 27 times and drawing only seven over the course of a 34-game schedule.

5. 2009 Eredivisie

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    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    Impressive as his Eredivisie wins with Ajax were—and they were mesmerising—perhaps Van Gaal's greatest accomplishment in Dutch football was finishing atop the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar in 2009.

    In fact, Van Gaal's "Cheese Farmers" ran away with the league, winding up 11 points clear of runners-up Twente and 12 above former club Ajax.

    AZ's Mounir El Mandaoui led the division with 23 goals—one more than Luis Suarez.

4. 1997 Order of Orange-Nassau

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Van Gaal's Ajax contract expired in the spring of 1997, and upon his exit from the club, he was awarded the prestigious Order of Orange-Nassau.

    Should he follow in Sir Alex Ferguson's footsteps at Manchester United, it would perhaps be appropriate that one knight should be followed by another.

3. 2010 Bundesliga and DfB-Pokal Double

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    When Van Gaal arrived at Bayern Munich in 2009, he was charged with fixing the mess left by his predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann.

    He didn't get off to the best of starts at Allianz-Arena, but by the end of the season, he had restored Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga table, where they finished five points ahead of Schalke.

    On May 15 they completed the double when Arjen Robben, Ivica Olic, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger each found the back of the net in a decisive 4-0 DFB-Pokal Final victory over Werder Bremen.

2. 1998 La Liga and Copa Del Rey Double

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    Van Gaal ended three years of Madrid dominance in La Liga (two titles from Real; one from Atletico) when he delivered the Primera Division title to Barcelona in his first season at Camp Nou.

    A team including Pep Guardiola, Luis Figo, Rivaldo, Hristo Stoichkov and Luis Enrique finished nine points above runners-up Athletic Bilbao that spring, and perhaps just as importantly, 11 clear of Real Madrid.

    The Catalans also won the Copa del Rey to complete a memorable double, beating Mallorca on penalties in the final.

1. 1995 Champions League

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    Unquestionably, Louis Van Gaal's greatest achievement in management was winning the 1994-95 Champions League with Ajax.

    At the time the Dutch giants hadn't lifted the European Cup since the glory days of the early 1970s, but Van Gaal's crop of homegrown talent restored the club's place on the continent.

    Playing free-flowing, attractive football, a side with names such as De Boer, Rijkaard, Seedorf, Overmars and Kluivert won a decisive semi-final against Bayern Munich before facing AC Milan in the Vienna showpiece.

    Kluivert scored the only goal at Ernst-Happel-Stadion as Ajax beat the Rossoneri 1-0.