12 Reasons for Manchester United to Be Excited About Arrival of Louis Van Gaal
Watching the 2014 World Cup has been a unique experience for Manchester United fans paying special attention as Louis van Gaal has displayed his managerial talents.
Getting this Netherlands squad to within a couple of penalties of the final should certainly go down as an overachievement. Speaking personally, I have spent each game getting ever more excited about the prospect of seeing Van Gaal at the helm at Old Trafford.
So, why is his arrival such a mouthwatering prospect?
Here are 12 reasons why, unlike this time last year, United fans should be eagerly anticipating the work of their incoming manager.
He’s a Huge Personality
I am who I am: confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, hard-working and innovative.
Ah, Louis. Not one for self-deprecation (h/t Skysports.com).
After the Dutch lost their penalty shootout against Argentina on Tuesday, Van Gaal even managed to take some credit for that (h/t BBC Sport).
I taught Romero how to stop penalties, so that hurts.
A club the size of United benefits enormously from having a manager with a big personality in charge. Van Gaal is certainly that.
He’s a Master Strategist and Tactician
Much has been written about Van Gaal’s tactical influence on the Netherlands’ relative World Cup success.
He has traditionally been associated with a 4-3-3, and his Dutch side played in that formation until the injury to Kevin Strootman saw Van Gaal rethink his approach.
Switching to a 5-3-2, Van Gaal made the best of a bad situation.
At very short notice he found a system which compensated for the loss of Strootman’s energy by providing additional cover at centre-half and pushing Arjen Robben closer to Robin van Persie.
The spectacular demolition of Spain came as a direct result of that strategic switch.
It will be very exciting to see him bring that kind of thinking to United.
He’s a Winner
Four Dutch Eredivisie titles, three with Ajax and one with AZ Alkmaar (their first for a decade and only the fifth in their history). Two La Liga titles with Barcelona. A Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich. A Champions League title with Ajax. Numerous domestic cup titles.
Add to that two runners-up places in the Champions League and overachieving at the World Cup with the Netherlands, and it is a more than impressive CV.
There have been times when Van Gaal has not succeeded—his first spell in charge of the national team and his second spell at Barcelona—but they have been the exception rather than the rule.
United fans are used to having a winner in charge, and Van Gaal fits that bill nicely.
He Brings Through Young Players
A fairly spectacular starting XI could be created of players Van Gaal has given a debut to.
At the heart of the midfield would be Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the most dominant of midfield partnerships.
Thomas Mueller made five appearances in all competitions for Bayern Munich in the season before Van Gaal arrived. In Van Gaal’s first season, he made 52.
Given United’s history of bringing players through the ranks, having a manager prepared to gamble on talented youngsters is a huge plus point.
His Netherlands Side Massively Overachieved, in Large Part Thanks to Him
Drawn in a very tough group, in which second place meant a likely last-16 clash with the host nation, few gave the Netherlands hope of making it a long way in the World Cup.
Starting with the remarkable victory over Spain, building on that with a comeback win against Australia and an artful, counter-attacking 2-0 win against Chile, the Netherlands managed the full nine points in their group.
Van Gaal's in-game management was excellent, with his substitutions changing the game against Australia in particular.
The spectacular, United-under-Sir-Alex-Ferguson-esque turnaround against Mexico was glorious for United fans to see. This time Van Gaal used the water break as an opportunity to switch to a 4-3-3 to exploit the tired Mexican defense.
The Tim Krul substitution against Costa Rica ahead of the penalty shootout proved a masterstroke.
Van Gaal found a way to get the very best out of his players. If he does the same at Old Trafford then last season's seventh-place finish will soon be a distant memory.
He Leaves a Legacy at Clubs
In this article from The Guardian in January 2013, Michael Cox looks in-depth at the impact Louis van Gaal had on the development of Pep Guardiola's managerial style.
Cox also points out the impact Van Gaal's input has had on the current Bayern Munich side.
Ryan Giggs had a run-out as interim manager at the end of last season and has been given a senior position on the coaching staff under Van Gaal.
It is not a huge leap of imagination to consider Giggs learning under Van Gaal and going on to do well as a future United manager.
Whether that happens, history suggests Van Gaal will leave United in a better state than the one in which he found it.
Robin Van Persie Absolutely Loves Him
The high five warmed the hearts of United fans across the globe. Robin van Persie had looked a shadow of his former self under the stewardship of David Moyes. Now he was back, scoring a truly breathtaking goal and running off to celebrate with his manager.
After the game (h/t the Mirror) he said:
The quality of this coach is that he makes his plans and ideas about football so very clear to his players. It makes it possible for us to play like that.
Every player knows what to do, knows what is expected from him and knows how to operate in Van Gaal’s team.
If Robin's excited, that's good enough for me.
He Is a Great in-Game Manager
As this World Cup has shown, Van Gaal is a master at influencing the course of a game. His substitutions throughout the World Cup have been excellent. None more so than the arrival of Tim Krul to face the penalty shootout against Costa Rica.
Much could be said about the impact his changes in tactics and personnel have had on games throughout his career. In the World Cup he constantly adapted his team to the situation it was facing.
The Krul substitution was the perfect encapsulation of that. Clearly well drilled, Krul dived the right way on each penalty, saved two and utterly vindicated Van Gaal's gamble.
Having a manager who can have that dramatic an impact on games is profoundly exciting.
He Has Had an Instant Impact at Past Clubs
As well as his positive legacy, he has often been able to make an immediate impact on the sides he manages. In his first spell at Barcelona they won the league in his first season in charge, having finished second the season before. At Bayern Munich he repeated the feat.
It took him longer at AZ and Ajax, and his second spell at Barcelona was ineffective, but his record of adding value immediately upon his arrival is impressive.
It may be too much to expect Van Gaal to win the league in his first season in charge of United, given how precipitous the post-Ferguson drop-off has been, but it would not be a total shock.
This Amazing Speech
Imagine it! United win the league under Van Gaal, and after the open-top bus parade he gives a speech in Albert Square.
Would he say, "Not just the capital of Manchester, but of Newcastle, and of London and of Liverpool?"
How could you not want a manager who has that speech in his locker in charge of your club?
He Has a 'very Attacking' Philosophy
Bryan Roy, the former Ajax striker, used the words "very attacking" to describe Van Gaal's footballing philosophy (h/t Skysports.com).
Five minutes into last season's home game against Norwich, the first after David Moyes' sacking, United fans were chanting, “attack, attack, attack-attack-attack!”
Although Van Gaal's Netherlands side has proved he can also be pragmatic, Roy's words suggest attacking football is at the top of Van Gaal's agenda.
This is very good news for fans who will pay to watch his team at Old Trafford next season.
He’s Very 'Manchester United'
Footballing success. An attacking philosophy. A dedication to giving young players a chance. Cocksure swagger.
If you had to encapsulate what the best of "Manchester United" means to its fans, that would be a reasonable attempt. Van Gaal ticks all of those boxes.
It might not work out. Football is a fickle game, and sometimes the things that should work do not. However, it is an appointment which makes a staggering amount of sense.
We could be in for a pretty spectacular ride.