Louis van Gaal continued to steal the Manchester United headlines this week by lambasting the club's pre-arranged preseason tour to the USA.
The Red Devils have traditionally travelled far and wide to exercise their brand during the rusty months ahead of Premier League action, but the Dutchman is not a fan of his new club's tendency to show the squad off around the world.
Van Gaal told reporters in Los Angeles (h/t BBC Sport):
You have to travel distances, you have to fly a lot, you also have jet-lag—that is not very positive for a good preparation.
The tour was already arranged so I have to adapt, and Manchester United shall do everything to adapt to my rules for good preparation.
I am very confident that [the tour will be shorter next year].
His trademark scowl of annoyance was firmly in place despite not yet reaching a week in the job, pushing focus onto the United hierarchy's decision to flaunt their talent for merchandising at the possible expense of actual footballing preparation.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was more defensive of the strategy, telling reporters that the Premier League had identified the USA as the No. 1 developing market for the sport and, from a sponsor perspective, it was the ideal trip.
Last summer, David Moyes and his crew embarked on a 23,000-mile trip around East Asia and Australia before playing Swansea City on the opening day, and previous locations have included South Africa and differing parts of the United States.
All locations chosen boasted the warm weather climates ideal for preseason preparation, but Van Gaal will likely point to countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy as places also ideal—and a heck of a lot closer, too.
United do this every year and will continue to do so; a manager's complaints will stop nothing.
But the wily tactician, 62, has been around long enough to know that and may well have a different game at heart. He's a master at shaping perception—just like Sir Alex Ferguson was—and he's setting parameters and expectations ahead of what will be a heavily scrutinised season.
He knows it's a business as well as a sport and is aware of the anticipated cash flow to come from the tour—even more important this year without UEFA Champions League football to rely on—but may well be playing on the opportunity to give himself breathing room.
It's a big job, and he's a big manager, but that won't make it a walk in the park.
Back in February, The Guardian reported on the possibility of United travelling the world to play "lucrative friendlies" while their regular rivals locked horns in European competition, offsetting their losses by a potential £20 million.
Tours to Australia, East Asia, the Middle East, South Africa and the USA are huge money-spinners, and United will commit to them every year. Woodward deals with figures rather than points, and the Manchester United global marketing machine will roll on regardless of LVG's opinion.
It'd be harsh to say he's setting up his excuses, but he's definitely weaving a clever web of some kind.
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