Louis van Gaal is set to officially grab the Manchester United reins on Wednesday, two months after the Red Devils agreed on a deal to bring the Dutch manager in.
Having completed his duty with the Netherlands' World Cup squad—landing the Oranje an impressive third place finish in Brazil—Van Gaal is readying himself for the Premier League, per Sky Sports:
AZ Alkmaar, the club Van Gaal brilliantly led to the Eredivisie title in 2009, indicated United fans can expect plenty of success—plus lots of unpredictability—under the experienced manager's guidance:
More predictable is the rundown of Van Gaal's most important dates in his new post. Similar to last year's early assessment of David Moyes' reign, a host of critical engagements will stand out for the new boss. Here, we take a look through Van Gaal's vital pre-season dates, transfer deadlines and key fixtures ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.
Key Preseason Dates
First Press Conference: July 17
Van Gaal is expected to provide a stern combination of humour and seriousness during his interactions with the English press. His debut opportunity to charm is likely to come during a press conference on Thursday, as reported by the Daily Mail.
It's expected Van Gaal will face plenty of questions to do with potential new signings, although it's unclear as to how open he will be about bringing in new faces.
Tour of the USA: July 23-Aug. 2
|Manchester United: USA Tour Dates 2014|
|July 23||vs. LA Galaxy||Rose Bowl Stadium, California.|
|July 26||vs. AS Roma||Sports Authority Field, Colorado.|
|July 29||vs. Inter Milan||Fedex Field, Maryland.|
|Aug. 2||vs. Real Madrid||Michigan Stadium, Michigan.|
Van Gaal's first chance to properly assess his squad comes when United head to the USA on Friday. His first official match sees the English club face LA Galaxy on July 23, before powering through a busy schedule of travelling and competing against European sides. A whirlwind 10 days will see United complete four matches in order to regain fitness, before the club heads back to England during a 10-day rest.
On Aug. 12, Van Gaal will step into the Old Trafford dugout as home boss for the first time. His side take on Valencia in a fixture branded "REUNITED" by the club's official website, just four days before the Premier League season begins against Swansea.
Transfer Window Dates
|Transfer Window Dates 2014-15|
|Summer Window||Winter Window|
|Opens||May 11, 2014 (moves to start commencing on July 1).||Dec. 31, 2014.|
|Closes||Sept. 1, 2014.||Feb. 2, 2015.|
The Premier League's official website details a couple of odd dates for the upcoming season's transfer windows. Van Gaal will receive extra days throughout the season to pick up new signings due to the usual end-of-month closure not falling on a working day. As such, minor extensions to Sept. 1 and Feb. 2 are being made throughout this campaign.
Vital Premier League Fixtures
|Manchester United's Vital Premier League Fixtures 2014-15|
|Aug. 16||vs. Swansea (H)||Old Trafford, Manchester.|
|Oct. 26||vs. Chelsea (H)||Old Trafford, Manchester.|
|Nov. 2||vs. Manchester City (A)||Etihad Stadium, Manchester.|
|Nov. 22||vs. Arsenal (A)||Emirates Stadium, North London.|
|Dec. 13||vs. Liverpool (H)||Old Trafford, Manchester.|
|Mar. 21||vs. Liverpool (A)||Anfield, Liverpool.|
|Apr. 11||vs. Manchester City (H)||Old Trafford, Manchester.|
|Apr. 18||vs. Chelsea (A)||Stamford Bridge, West London.|
|May 16||Arsenal (H)||Old Trafford, Manchester.|
Van Gaal's competitive challenge begins with the aforementioned clash against Swansea on Aug. 16, but the Dutchman is eased into proceedings with fixtures against Sunderland, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers before things start to become really tricky.
Arguably United's biggest fixture of the season arrives with Liverpool at home on Dec. 13. Van Gaal will then face the club's bitter rivals again on March 21, 2015, leading United into another hectic period as the season concludes.
The second City-Chelsea double bill takes place within the week of Apr. 11-18, as United prepare to face Arsenal on home soil as the Premier League's penultimate fixture.
United will hope to be competing for at least a Champions League place at this point. While supporters must hold onto their expectations during Van Gaal's first year in charge, it will be interesting to see how his leadership benefits newly appointed assistant manager Ryan Giggs.
Ex-player Terry Gibson believes the partnership will be extremely beneficial for the legendary Welshman, per Ben Hibbs of the club's official website: "Van Gaal is going to enjoy working with Ryan Giggs. He is a hands-on coach, he will be on the pitch every single training session and Ryan can learn so much from him."
Many will hope Van Gaal's experience and tactical nous can return United to winning ways. The usually successful club suffered a horrific run of form under Moyes, whose unambitious strategy saw the team move away from the free-flowing attacking football that has made them such a loved brand across the globe.
With a smidgen of luck and a lot of hard work, Van Gaal can get the team back to their competitive best during his time in charge.