Manchester United’s new boss Louis van Gaal has admitted that he was “very close” to completing a deal to become the manager of Tottenham, and he has spoken of his love for the North London club.
The Dutchman has agreed to become David Moyes’ successor at Old Trafford, but he insisted the prospect of managing at White Hart Lane was a tantalising one, as he supported Spurs when growing up.
When pushed on whether he was interested in the Tottenham job, Van Gaal's answer suggested that had United not come calling, he could easily have been in the Spurs dugout next season, per Laurie Whitwell of the Mail Online:
It was very close. Very close. As a little boy I was a fan of Tottenham Hotspur with the team of Jimmy Greaves when he was the champion. Jimmy Greaves was my idol. They had fantastic white shirts. So I was very close.
But it seems that once the 20-time champions of England made their move for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, his destination was sealed. The Dutch manager is currently making the final preparations for his team’s World Cup campaign and refused to answer any direct questions about his new employers.
Van Gaal did elaborate on his management style, however, and that should come as a warning to a host of United players, as noted in Whitwell’s piece:
I am a coach who wants a good relationship with my players and I do everything to reach that level. Sometimes it is not reachable as the players are not open-minded and don’t adapt to the norms that I put in the team.
When you are not listening, always out, or I go out.
The fact that Van Gaal was so close to taking the Tottenham job provides a prime indicator that the 62-year-old was keen to get back into club football and will surely be hungry for the challenge that awaits him at the Red Devils.
It’s also an emphatic attestation that despite United’s failure to finish in the European places for next season, the club still has major pulling power. Reading between the lines when it comes to Van Gaal’s quotes would suggest he was powerless to resist the lure of United, despite the lack of top-level European football and his obvious affinity with Spurs.
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This seemingly unyielding gravitas should stand United in good stead in the transfer market too, where Rob Shepherd of the Mail Online has claimed Van Gaal will be looking to bring in no less than six new players, spending a whopping £220 million in the process.
When talking about bonding with the players, it triggers memories of jobs gone by, where Van Gaal often had turbulent relationships with outspoken individuals who failed to abide by his unshakeable belief in his own staunch principles. Perhaps most noticeably a dispute with former Barcelona forward Rivaldo on what position he should play in, per Graeme Bailey of Sky Sports.
He gave an indicator of exactly how stubborn he can be when it comes to his ideologies earlier this week and touched upon a fallout he had with former Bayern Munich director Uli Hoeness, as noted here by Elko Born:
Louis van Gaal: 'I decide for myself what formation my team plays. No director does that for me. Yeah, Hoeness did, that's why I left.'— Elko Born (@Elko_B) June 1, 2014
With that in mind, it’ll be intriguing to see how he fares at United where his fractious style is certainly set to ruffle a few feathers in a dressing room not short on big characters.
It seems obvious United are set to invest heavily this summer too, and the implementation of these new players—not to mention his own unique fundamentals—will be a precarious balancing act for the Dutchman. After a season of crushing disappointment at Old Trafford, it's a balance you can imagine the Old Trafford hierarchy will be expecting him to strike almost immediately.