Van Gaal the right man for right now at United after long-term plans blew up

Louis van Gaal is almost the opposite of what Manchester United sought when they hired David Moyes - brash, experienced, arrogant, writes Richard Jolly. It's just what they need to turn things around.
Louis van Gaal has managed the Netherlands, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax in his career before being named Manchester United manager on Monday May 19, 2014. Pascal Pavani / AFP
Louis van Gaal has managed the Netherlands, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax in his career before being named Manchester United manager on Monday May 19, 2014. Pascal Pavani / AFP

This was not the original plan. Manchester United was supposed to be about seamless tradition and longevity.

This was a club that hired on the basis of character, the one that showed precious little interest in storied managers such as Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti last year.

They wanted a dynasty. They got a disaster.

Louis van Gaal’s appointment reflects the remarkable extent to which assumptions at Old Trafford have changed within a year.

Enter a 62-year-old with a track record of falling out with people, a man who almost advertises his arrogance.

It is safe to say Sir Alex Ferguson’s ideas about his succession certainly did not include Van Gaal.

Read more: Ian Hawkey profiles the new Manchester United manager

But United’s first non-British or Irish manager is also the best qualified man they have ever appointed.

Van Gaal has won league titles at each of his four previous clubs. He has taken two to Champions League finals, winning once.

The Dutchman’s CV offers reassurance in troubled times at Old Trafford.

His arrival reflects the importance of getting back in the Champions League and, preferably, proving United can win the title without Ferguson.

At 62, Van Gaal is not a long-term appointment. He is a quick fix.

There was a recognition among senior figures at Old Trafford that the perfect manager may have been beyond their reach – and certainly men such as Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola are tied up elsewhere – but while Van Gaal was not the model candidate, he was the best available.

Indeed, with Ryan Giggs’ inexperience counting against him, alternatives were in short supply.

Van Gaal, courted by Tottenham, had more options than United. Again, it illustrates how damaging the events of 2013, and Ferguson’s flawed choice of David Moyes, were.

Van Gaal represents the antithesis of the sacked Scot. He has the footballing ethos and the attacking style of play Moyes lacked.

The sheer size of United left Moyes apprehensive. Van Gaal will be unworried. He is not plagued by self-doubt.

It is hard to imagine him being afraid of either the boardroom or the dressing room.

The players who exerted too much power and performed too poorly for Moyes should fear for their futures under Van Gaal. He is no respecter of reputations.

His regime could prove an unpleasant shock for some of United’s underachievers.

The initial reaction is that the balance of power in attack may swing back from Wayne Rooney to Robin van Persie. Others, too, have reasons to be apprehensive.

Van Gaal’s inheritance is both indifferent and excellent.

The flaws in the United squad have been illustrated and illuminated this season.

The club’s vast commercial income offers an opportunity to pay about £150 million (Dh923.9m) for reinforcements.

A radical revamp is required but Van Gaal has the tools to do it.

It is rare a manager anywhere will be granted a bigger budget and the chance to spend it will appeal to his sense of ambition.

His decisiveness could extend to swiftly exiling some of the current crop.

In one sense, it is a fine time to take charge.

United have bottomed out and it is hard to imagine next season being any worse than this.

If, as looks likely, they are spared Europa League football, it could be considerably easier. They should be able to concentrate on the league, aided by the expensive additions vice-chairman Ed Woodward has long planned and the marquee names Van Gaal wants.

The question is not whether United will improve, but how much. Because, in two or three years, they will be probably looking for another manager.

Should Van Gaal succeed, then they can attempt to implement a long-term strategy with their ideal appointment. But not now.

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Published: May 19, 2014 04:00 AM


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