Louis Van Gaal Appointment at Manchester United Marks Sea Change over 12 Months

Rob DawsonChief Writer IVApril 12, 2017

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Manchester United chose the mystery prize last summer.

You know the one. The envelope with the question mark on the front the host offers to the contestant at the end of every '80s quiz show. 

It's meant to be a bit of a joke. You're not actually meant to take it. But United did. 

They barely gave Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho—the sports cars or jet skis—a passing glance when they appointed Sir Alex Ferguson's successor. Instead, they chose the envelope. The mystery. David Moyes.

A lack of any real success—titles or trophies—made Moyes an unknown quantity at the highest level.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 01:  David Moyes manager of Manchester United applauds the fans  during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Manchester United and FC Bayern Muenchen at Old Trafford on April 1, 2014 in Manchester, En
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Had he turned out to be the second coming of Fergie the board hoped, it would have been a good decision. But he didn't. And it wasn't.

But unlike the daring quiz show contestant, United have been given a second chance. Or more accurately, they manufactured a second chance by binning Moyes after 10 months.

But as the conveyor belt of prizes rolls past Ed Woodward, he might be a little disappointed. It's just, well, the choices aren't as good as last time.

The sports cars and the jet skis are all gone. Ancelotti is at Real Madrid, Guardiola at Bayern and Mourinho at Chelsea. Instead, there are a selection of ride-on mowers and above-ground pools. Still good, just not as good.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Louis van Gaal is a talented manager. You don't win league titles in Holland, Spain and Germany if you're not. 

But when United were looking for a new manager last summer, there weren't many supporters screaming for the 62-year-old Dutchman. Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and even Moyes, yes. But not Van Gaal.

Ferguson was 71 when he retired. And it was a natural instinct to pick someone younger, fresher, to follow him. But that didn't work. And now things have changed. 

United, battered and bruised after a humiliating season, need someone who can revive their fortunes. A big name to attract big players. A disciplinarian and a motivator to take control of a dressing room low on confidence.

MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 28:  Head coach of Bayern Louis van Gaal and head coach of Manchester United Sir Alex Ferguson attend the press conference during the Audi Cup 2009 at the Westin Hotel on July 28, 2009 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

But they have been keen to show they have not been working on a short list of one. They took enough criticism for allowing Moyes to be handpicked. They've learned from their mistakes.

Van Gaal will be unemployed as soon as the Netherlands exit the World Cup. But Woodward will surely appoint on suitability rather than just availability.

Luckily for the executive vice chairman, Van Gaal is both.

That the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager is deemed the right man for the job is proof of how far United have fallen.

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21:  Coach Louis van Gaal gives instructions during the Bayern Munich training session prior to the UEFA Champions League Final match versus Inter Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 21, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jami
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

It's not the time to gamble on a younger, more progressive, coach. Roberto Martinez or Diego Simeone, perhaps. They need a quick fix in order to get back into the Champions League as quickly as possible.

Van Gaal is a proven winner. Not a long-term appointment, but a winner nonetheless. Moyes' failure means there's no room for error this time.

And what if Van Gaal does more than just breathe new life into a giant trying to find its feet again? Win the title, perhaps, or even the Champions League?

If he can do that, he might just prove he was the big prize all along.