Louis van Gaal's Bold World Cup Tactics Boost Manchester United Belief

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

Netherlands' head coach Louis van Gaal celebrates after the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The Netherlands won 4-3 on penalty kicks. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

The collective ears of football fans across the world pricked up on Saturday night as a penalty shootout between the Netherlands and Costa Rica looked inevitable. 

With minutes left on the clock, Dutch reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul was spotted warming up furiously, suggesting that Louis van Gaal was about to make a tactical switch that is very rarely seen in the game―changing your No. 1 unenforced. 

Krul came on with seconds to spare and eventually won the Netherlands their right to a World Cup semifinal place, diving the correct way for each Costa Rican spot-kick.

Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

It was a remarkable piece of tactical brilliance employed by Van Gaal and there is little doubting that it won his side the match. 

It was a calculated gamble, but the best poker players can always see three cards ahead of their opponents.

And as Dutch fans around the world celebrated yet another chance of winning the biggest tournament in football, Manchester United fans bowed down in front of a manager who is still yet to sit in the Old Trafford dugout before them. 

The last few weeks have filled United supporters with a fervour certainly not witnessed a year ago with the appointment of David Moyes.

Uwe Lein/Associated Press

There is already a trust and bond with Van Gaal which is almost celestial―there have been no games, no victories and no championships―but United fans already believe in him like a messiah figure. 

This stems not only from his fantastic record in club football which rivals any active coach in Europe, but also from the football that his Dutch side has played.

Sometimes they have been thrilling, as with their 5-1 destruction of Spain, but other times they have dug in and fought for their manager―a trait United always had in their DNA under Sir Alex Ferguson but was missing under Moyes.

And of all the coaches left at the World Cup, it is Van Gaal who is now having his name praised across the board more than any other, as was the case on Twitter:

Van Gaal's task now is to arrive at Old Trafford and educate an adoring set of fans who have seen nothing but 4-4-2 for 30 years. The transition will be an interesting one, but most already understand that the Red Devils must evolve and leave behind a system that has brought so much glory.

LvG's preference for a 4-3-3 will utilise United's current playing staff but, with a few choice additions, the transformation could be immediate and spectacular. 

The arrivals of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw will be hugely beneficial to Van Gaal's preferred tactical formation, and their youth and vitality should be infectious to their new team-mates.

Van Gaal's biggest challenge will lie with Wayne Rooney and finding him a place in his starting line-up.

Jon Super/Associated Press

The general feeling is that the new manager will chose Robin van Persie as his striker, but there could be a typical LvG curveball about to happen here.

Van Persie is perfectly adept at playing either side of the striker and we have seen this in his previous incarnations with Arsenal, where 4-3-3 was commonplace. 

If Van Gaal can see a clear benefit from playing RvP offset from Rooney in the centre, then that is what will happen. 

If anyone can make it work, then it is Van Gaal. 

The 5-3-2 system chosen by the Netherlands at the World Cup would also suit a Rooney/Van Persie axis, so there might just be a place in Van Gaal's new team for Wazza in the months ahead.

But whatever does occur, United fans are already excited by the new coach's arrival, and his charm and charisma are going to be like a drug to the masses. As Chelsea fans became intoxicated with Jose Mourinho and his inimitable style, so United fans will become drunk on the leadership provided by Van Gaal.

Only time and results will tell, and the honeymoon never lasts too long, but if LvG can take a grip of United's fortunes with immediate effect, the Stretford End will love and worship him for the foreseeable future.


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