Former Netherlands forward Patrick Kluivert has stated that the coaching style of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal can grate on senior players.
Kluivert, who was part of his compatriot’s staff during their time together with the national team at the 2014 World Cup, was speaking to Omnisport (h/t Dom Farrell of Goal) about Van Gaal and hailed his qualities when it comes to working with younger players. However, the former Ajax forward wasn’t quite so convinced in the case of seasoned professionals:
He's a trainer and a man who really wants to do well and sometimes, with experienced players who have already achieved something, he has some struggles.
With young players he is amazing, he's fantastic. Sure, also with experienced players but some players who are experienced have their own vision of playing in the game. That does not always go well.
He knows what he wants. He is very honest, he is very straight and that's a characteristic that suits him very well.
Van Gaal nurtured Kluivert during their time together at Ajax. The forward was key to one of the United boss’ biggest triumphs too, as the Eredivisie giants won the 1995 Champions League, with the then 18-year-old striker getting the winning goal against Milan.
Here is a reminder of that memorable occasion for both manager and player:
The youth set-up is something which has benefitted massively since Van Gaal took over in Manchester, with the illustrious coach clearly unfazed by the prospect of throwing youngsters into the XI.
At the moment, 18-year-old Marcus Rashford is shining at the point of the attack and as we can see courtesy of ESPN FC, the manager has been willing to tap into the club’s academy set-up when the time is right:
Players who made their Manchester United debuts under Louis van Gaal: pic.twitter.com/mDR4AZVpYG— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 2, 2016
Nevertheless, that’s only half a job and in a team such as United, the core of senior players is crucial to success. There have been reports suggesting Van Gaal may not be all that popular with this group either.
The manager confirmed earlier this season that Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick approached him about a “flat” dressing-room morale, per Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News. More recently Jamie Jackson and Ed Aarons reported in the Guardian that there is a “group of senior players uneasy about tactics and training.”
It’s an apparent lack of confidence which has manifested on the field, with the Red Devils underwhelming in the Premier League and knocked out of the Europa League against bitter rivals Liverpool, per Sam Pilger of Bleacher Report:
#MUFC failed to score from open play in 180 minutes against an average Liverpool side. Miserable, utterly miserable from Van Gaal— Sam Pilger (@sampilger) March 17, 2016
There’s undeniable pressure on the manager at the moment and as such it would be a big surprise to still see him in charge next season. The football at Old Trafford is dreary, the results are not good enough for a club of such standards and there’s little suggest the tide is going to turn any time soon.
Still, Bleacher Report’s Clark Whitney feels the Dutchman deserves credit for taking a long-term view:
Not sure any coach has Van Gaal's record of promoting youth. MUFC have struggled, yet as at Bayern & Barca, he's built foundation for future— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) March 18, 2016
Will Van Gaal be at United next season?
Of course, the benefits for players like Rashford will come to fruition further down the line. But at a top club like United, it’s important to balance the integration of youth with results on the field. One without the other is never likely to sate the Old Trafford crowd.
Kluivert speaks candidly about a man who he’s worked closely with on numerous occasions, making his opinion an intriguing one. It seems Van Gaal is not at ease when there are big personalities to deal with at a football club, although that’s exactly the kind of personnel the Red Devils will need if they’re to start competing at the top again.