Former Wales assistant manager Raymond Verheijen claims Louis van Gaal's strenuous training methods are the reason for Luke Shaw's injury at Manchester United.
Verheijen, an outspoken character throughout his coaching career, posted a series of tweets in which he criticises the newly installed Old Trafford boss for working his players too hard and without enough rest.
He suggests this was also the reason members of the Netherlands' squad suffered injuries at the World Cup:
Encouraging to see so many people noticing this year’s ‘pre-season incompetence’. Hopefully, one day players will be prepared professionally— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
LVG is tactically superior to most other coaches but planning & periodisation is not his strongest point: double sessions & muscles injuries— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
During the World Cup preparation, the Dutch players had to do frequent double sessions, so not surprisingly the muscle injuries accumulated…— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
….Vd Vaart (calf), De Guzman (hamstring), RVP (groin), Fer (hamstring), De Jong (groin), Sneijder (hamstring) amongst other muscle injuries.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Again, this pattern is no hindsight but was already identified well before the World Cup as this is just common sense pic.twitter.com/HMlTci4ENG— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Verheijen then turned his attention to United, where he believes the same problems are already arising:
At Man United, in the first few weeks, LVG has applied the same approach and, as expected, with the same result: accumulation of injuries.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
The Luke Shaw case is the climax of Manchester United’s predictable pre-season injury crisis due to 'too much training too soon'.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Chapter 1: Luke Shaw cuts his 3 week off season short and already returns back to training after two weeks. Who’s idea was this?— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Chapter 2: LVG shows his disappointment about Luke Shaw lack of fitness. http://t.co/Cu9CHarlaq— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Chapter 3: Luke Shaw has to do extra training to get fit. Who was in charge of his individual program? http://t.co/7mhUKZY6nH— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Chapter 4: Luke Shaw picks up a hamstring injury and will be out for at least 4 weeks. http://t.co/I0UW3aI8Ns— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Van Gaal's positioning as an elite manager makes him hard to challenge, forcing Verheijen into asking who would question his methods at the club:
LVG’s coaching skills & tactical superiority often compensate for this periodisation deficiency but there is clearly room for improvement.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
But who is gonna tell a top coach that he has to raise his bar in a certain area? The 'yes-men' in his coaching staff? Journalists? Who...?— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
Despite the rant, Verheijen believes Van Gaal remains one of the world's best, and that he can turn United's fortunes around:
In international football there are only a few real top coaches. And LVG is clearly one of them. Great appointment by Manchester United.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
LVG’s track record speaks for itself. And last summer during WC2014 in Brazil he proved it again with mainly Dutch Premier League players.— Raymond Verheijen (@raymondverheije) August 14, 2014
This isn't the first time Verheijen has questioned tactics at United during pre-season. In July 2013, he criticised David Moyes for also overworking players, but more specifically, Dutchman Robin van Persie.
Does Louis van Gaal work his players too hard?
Verheijen previously noted Van Persie was "overtrained," saying, "The only way to solve this problem in Jurassic Park is to improve education of these dinosaur coaches, fitness clowns & scientific cowboys," per the Guardian.
While the aforementioned United stars may have been unlucky—it's not as if Van Persie's career has been injury free—Verheijen's tweets certainly raise an interesting discussion around footballers and fitness.
This year's schedule has been particularly arduous due to the World Cup, a tournament in which Shaw made his competitive international bow for England. He made 35 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 season, per WhoScored.com, but turned up to pre-season in noticeably poor shape.
Van Gaal noticed this and forced Shaw into a personal program, reported by Jamie Jackson of the Guardian. Shaw also acknowledged he has work to do before getting up to speed at the Theatre of Dreams, per BBC Sport, and acted maturely when questioned about his lack of fitness.
In the weeks proceeding this interview, he has made a handful of friendly appearances and trained individually, before picking up the injury.
Shaw's year has barely contained a break due to his international involvement. While most players appear to have coped with this situation well, it's fair to say the constant need to train and perform to a high level may have taken its toll on the 19-year-old.
This is by no means a surprise, Shaw's rise to world fame has been rapid, but Verheijen indicates the teenager's current spell on the sidelines is avoidable.
With regards to Van Gaal, those who have been within the vicinity of his United work continue to praise him. Wayne Rooney believes the "tough" manager has "been great since he came in," reported by Steve Brenner of the Guardian.
Paul Scholes suggests there's method to Van Gaal's toughness, via Kevin Palmer of the Sunday World:
Scholes on Van Gaal: "From what I’ve seen in pre-season he looks a bit mad. He’s a bit like a mad genius. He looks a bit crazy." #MUFC— Kevin Palmer (@kpsundayworld) August 14, 2014
United fans will most likely only take notice of who is on the pitch, and how they perform. The team have played speedy passing football throughout the summer, offering a level of intensity and efficiency that just wasn't apparent under Moyes. This is likely to be down to tougher training sessions, improved tactics, and the sense of belief Van Gaal installs in his players.
Irritating injuries have long plagued the club and were a feature of the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Stars such as Nani, Anderson and Nemanja Vidic constantly battled with problems toward the end of the Scotsman's era, but it is difficult to explicitly highlight exactly why this happened. Obviously if Van Gaal's techniques begin to drum up a handful of similar injuries, the manager needs to rethink his approach.
Ashley Young is likely to take Shaw's left wing-back position during Saturday's opening Premier League game with Swansea. He is an individual who wouldn't have put in a run of excellent pre-season form without adopting Van Gaal's increased work ethic. Young's fitness, concentration and confidence look sharper than ever, improvements that should be attributed to the new boss.
Verheijen's comments will certainly focus the spotlight on Van Gaal's training methods as the season begins, but if his team quickly begin firing with a set of decent results, the extra work will have paid off.