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Louis van Gaal – a managerial heavyweight

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 20.31.14With the pressure that owners, boards of directors and fans seem to put on their managers in modern football growing year by year, managerial cycles seem to become shorter and shorter. Consequently, it’s now harder to become a so-called managerial heavyweight: a manager who instils respect and awe – mixed with a mild dose of fear – when someone as much as mentions their name; someone, in short, like Louis van Gaal.

Van Gaal started in his career at Ajax in the Netherlands in the early 1990s. His Ajax side achieved world fame in 1995, when the Amsterdam based outfit won the Champions League with a squad comprising mainly of youth academy graduates and other technically gifted players, cleverly bought for relatively low transfer fees. In 1996, Van Gaal’s Ajax reached the final of the Champions League again. This time they lost after penalties against Juventus.

His achievements at Ajax did not go unnoticed though, and in 1997, Van Gaal joined Spanish side Barcelona after his contract with Ajax had run down. There, he would go on to win two league titles and the Copa del Rey.

In 2000, Van Gaal became manager of the Dutch national team, but when the Netherlands failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2002, he resigned. Luckily, Barcelona took him back. Unluckily, Van Gaal’s second stint in Spain was much less successful than his first. He didn’t even finish the season.

This was a delicate moment in Van Gaal’s career. In a way, it was make or break. Yes, he had been successful at Ajax, and miraculously, he had won the Champions League. Yes, he had had some success at Barcelona. But he had failed as an international manager, and he had failed when the Spanish giants had taken him back. All in all, Van Gaal’s place on the managerial spectrum wasn’t quite clear.
It would take until 2009, when Van Gaal returned to the international spotlight after a period of time spent in relative anonymity, until football got its answer. Van Gaal had won the Dutch title with relatively small club AZ Alkmaar – no easy in feat in a league historically dominated by the likes of Ajax and PSV Eindhoven – and was now in charge of one of the biggest clubs in the world: German giants Bayern Munich.

Van Gaal’s Bayern side won the German title and reached the final of the Champions League in 2010. Later, in 2013, when Bayern Munich won Europe’s biggest prize under the leadership of Van Gaal’s successor Jupp Heynckes, the Dutch manager would claim that it was him who had laid the foundations of Bayern’s future success. While this remark might sound arrogant and pompous, it is also true in many ways. Many aspects of the style of play employed by Bayern were inspired by Van Gaal’s trademark ‘philosophy’ – the attacking tactics inspired by the Dutch ‘Total Football’ employed by Johan Cruyff and his colleagues in the 1970s.

In fact, the same could be said about Barcelona, whose former manager Pep Guardiola was coached by Van Gaal when he was still a player at the Spanish side. Guardiola, who now manages Bayern Munich, would at one point revolutionise football management and football tactics, but he learned the trade from Van Gaal in the late 1990s, when he was already thinking about his future career. And it wasn’t just Guardiola who Van Gaal mentored during his time at Barcelona. Current Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho – then just promoted from the position of club translator – was Van Gaal’s assistant.By now, Van Gaal has removed all doubts: he is not some pretender who managed to do what he has done merely because luck was on his side. He is one of those rare giants of the game. A quick look at some of Europe’s top sides will prove that. Thus, any club able to employ Louis van Gaal should count themselves fortunate to do so. And in the case of Manchester United, this fortune seems to go both ways, as the Dutch legend recently stated in an interview that he regards Manchester United as ‘the biggest club in the world’.

Not too long ago, Van Gaal announced he had two ambitions left. He wanted to manage a team during a World Cup, and he wanted to manage a team in the Premier League. His first ambition has been fulfilled. United are able to offer Van Gaal chance to fulfil his second ambition. And as we know now, United could do worse. Louis van Gaal is a managerial heavyweight.

For more articles on Louis van Gaal but Dutch football experts, as well as an in-depth review of our season, get the RoM Season review. All profit to Trafford Macmillan.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Einar Orn AEvarsson says:

    This could be our best signing so far. That stunt with Krull? Balls all the way.

  2. John says:

    The best signing ever by Van Gaal for Manchester United is he himself! :)

    It’s sad the Orange’s have to now play for meaningless third place match against Brazil. However, APM proved that he is the best manager of this World Cup.

    Exciting times for Manchester United supporters indeed!

  3. Tommy says:


    Yea mate, most pointless game in world football is the 3rd/4th place play off, I thnk if the Dutch were offered a semi final defeat before the WC started theyd of took it. Hope the good times return to United, looking forward to August 6th

  4. John says:

    Tommy, it is ridiculous isn’t it? You prepare for such a long time and then get into finals to compete for that 1 all important trophy but unfortunately when you lose in semis inspite of your shattered heart you are forced to compete for the pride of being 3rd best loser a day ahead of finals. :) :) It’s like an extra punishment for getting so close and losing. :)

    FIFA is truely something else. :)

    Tommy, yeah it is a huge achievement for the Dutch to reach into semis. All the haters and some journos are ridiculing our manager’s decision to make Vlaar take the first penalty but like manager said two other who he asked weren’t confident so with MoM performance Vlaar was the logical choice due to confidence factor. Obviously, he missed it but I have to say right from start to finish (fuck 3rd place nonsense) LVG was key for their overachievement. Dippers and oil clubs fans are having a field day and questioning LVG but that just shows he already have scared them. I sense SAF second coming for ABUs. :) :)

  5. John says:

    One of the thing I am also happy for is that LVG is gracious in defeat. He is truely a class act.

    Dutch didn’t win the World Cup but for some strange reason it doesn’t feel they lost. I think that speaks volume re LVG tactical decisions.

    LVG truely made Manchester United proud in this World Cup and proved why he was appointed for new era.

  6. Tommy says:


    Its not LVG or Ron Vlaars fault mate that 2 players bottled taking the first penalty, got no time for forwards/attacking mids who refuse to step up for a penalty, when its their jobs to score goals and leaving it up to the centre half. He was classy in defeat and made no excuses like a Mourinho would, reminds me of Fergie in that regard, I remember him putting on a buffet and drinks reception for both Wenger and Mourinho aftter winning the title, and Mourinho even said SAF told him how to lose with dignity, and LVG showed that last night, very classy man indeed.

  7. Tommy says:


    The 3rd/4th place play off is pathetic, the way Brazilians have reacted to ther performance wouldnt be surprised to hear a Brazilian player has been shot like that Columbian in 1994, David Luiz, Fred and Hulk would be the ones in the firing line, and the Dutch just want to get home now and go on holiday after a long season, not hang around in Brazil for a few days, I would imagine LVG will play the squad members who havnt had a game in this game, it really does not matter if you come 3rd/4th

  8. John says:

    Tommy, I don’t remember 1994 World Cup mate. I was bit young to recall it but I do know Romario, Baggio penalty miss and Maradona drug case through various media outlets.

    What happened to Columbia player exactly? Was he shot dead by some dumbass?

  9. Tommy says:


    He scored an own goal in a vital world cup match which helped elimate Columbia and when the team arrived back in the country he was shot dead, whats the world coming to shot dead for something that happens on a football pitch. I was too young myself, I just know the incident has been told time and again, my only recollection from that world cup was Baggios penalty miss

  10. John says:

    Tommy, thanks for the link mate. It seems even in World Cup lot goes behind the scene esp in that part of world. Hopefully, we as a host didn’t get involved. :(

    The interesting thing is host nations proceed further unexpectedly somehow. ;)

  11. Tommy says:


    Their was a moving moment during the world cup, Columbia were playing japan and had already qualified for the knock outs and were winning 4 1, and they substituted their goalkeeper and brought on a 43 year old goalkeeper who player in that world cup and was actually best friends and room mates with escobar, 20 years on from that world cup, the whole ground stood up and clapped him onto the pitch, it was one of my favourite moments of the world cup just for the sheer heartwarming story.

  12. Sparkz says:

    Anyone notice that this article has been ‘filed’ under Louis Saha lol?

  13. Slim Jim says:

    I don’t know about all this blindly positive stuff about LVG. To me, there are very some worrying early signs:
    1. He threw his players under the bus. For example, he publicly announces the fact that a couple of players didn’t want to take penalties. Its normal for a manager to discuss this privately with his players first prior to the final choices. You want the confident ones to take penalties – if a player declines, you don’t want him there anyway – he is obviously too nervous. Meanwhile, poor Vlaar, the best player on the pitch in the match, gets publicly humiliated after such a fine effort. After missing his penalty, LVG steps in front of the camera and says he would have preferred the other two.
    2. He took credit for the opposite keeper Romero’s saves. “I taught him to do that!”
    3. He says he wanted to take Krul out, but he couldn’t. As if, it was somebody else’s fault – or the rules – that prevented him from the smart strategy. Not LVG’s fault though, surely. Van Persie is a better target for the blame, it seems to suggest.
    4. After the Krul sub in the previous match (which was genius), he quickly jumps in front of the camera and takes credit – “It was my idea!”. Ugh, yeah, we kinda got that rather obvious part, there Louis. I wonder what other ideas he will take credit for in the future. “I thought of the internet first!!!”
    5. And of course, his wonderful “Congratulations, you got ME!” self-congratulatory speech when first hired to be the manager.

    I don’t have a good feeling about this. I think we have a narcissist, an egomaniac where its all about him first and foremost.

  14. wayne barker says:

    I’m not drinking the coolade yet either,everyone calling him a genius because of one result against Spain.Dutch didn’t play well after that and if you look at his record outside of Holland never stayed at a club to long
    To many people are hailing him as a genius,savior etc before he’s done fuck all,hope he is what everyone is saying he is just not sold

  15. Sparkz says:

    @Wayne – LVG isn’t being called a genius juat coz of the World Cup. His CV even before the tournament was impressive as fuck. The guy is absolutely dripping with trophies and big club experience. You were more positive about Moyes this time last year, and he didn’t have half the track record LVG does! So don’t get the negativity really

    Holland weren’t brilliant at this tournament but they had no right to even get out of the group, let alone the semis. And it’s not just the match against Spain – are we forgetting the match against Chile? Chile who were one of the most outstanding teams in the early part of the tournament? Chile who NOBODY came close to nullifying – apart from LVG’s Dutch team? Are we also forgetting how for 4 games running he made subs that impacted the game (when Fergie did that we’d rightly praise him)

    And the club haven’t signed him to stay here for long. He’s 62 years old, and I think they gave him a 3 year contract? They literally just want him for a few years, hoping that Giggs will be ready to step up after that.

    @SlimJim – I actually agree with you on the penalties thing, don’t think he should have made that public. However I get the feeling he wouldn’t have said that if he was going to stay on as manager, or if the Dutch had won the shootout. You only have to listen to the players to see he’s created a good spirit in the camp – which hardly ever happens with Holland!

  16. wayne barker says:

    Where’s the negativity? And you should know me by now managers who win with Bayern or any other big club in leagues that are dominated by one or two teams just don’t impress me and yes there were plenty on here who were calling him a genius because of the Spain result check old threads
    No negativity just live in reality and realize it’s a age of over hype and over reaction,just because I’m not sucking his dick already doesn’t make me negative

  17. John says:

    I remember someone defending moyes when he was criticized rightly by some of us by saying “because he is a United manager”. That was reason enough for defending moyes . Now Van Gaal is a United manager and same man raises finger against our manager.

    Fucking Hypocrite!! :(

  18. Sparkz says:

    When he won the League with Bayern (and got to a CL final) the German league wasn’t the pisspot it is today though. In fact that was the only time in 4 seasons Bayern won the League. 2009 Wolfsburg won it. 2011 and 2012 Dortmund won it. 2010 LVG and Bayern won it so clearly it weren’t as easy as today.

    (In any case, back in the late 90′s/early 00′s the Premier League was only a 2 team league but that didn’t make Fergie or Wenger less impressive)

    And yeah maybe some people were saying it just coz of the Spain result, but it’s not like they didn’t win a game after that. As I said, getting an average Dutch side to the semis is a fantastic achievement and his decisions were by and large brilliant throughhout the tournament.

    When you add that to the trophies he’s won at Ajax, Barca and Bayern, plus his track record in developing young players and attractive football, there’s no over reaction IMO. LVG is one of the most successful and respected coaches in the game, that’s just reality. Even if there hadn’t been a World Cup on people still would have said the same thing. That was just the icing on the cake.

    Negativity might be the wrong word but I’m just saying that you were a lot more positive 12 months ago about Moyes, even though he’s nowhere near as successful as LVG. So surely you should be at least the same now?

  19. wayne barker says:

    Not buying into the hype and actually waiting to see what happens is not raising a finger,i suggest you take a course in English Comprehension before commenting again because you clearly have major issues with understanding what’s being said

  20. wayne barker says:

    Moyes wasn’t getting the same type of hype reading everything about Van Gaal he walks on water.I don’t know fuck all about him so i’m going to wait and see.Plenty of managers have come to the Prem with a great CV and struggle,my very last sentence in my first comment I said hope he is what everyone says he is,just not a fan of over hype and everyone is over the top at the moment

  21. John says:

    Whatever man, the reason Van Gaal isn’t British is making you difficult to appreciate his CV and philosophy.

    Or else it could be due to the fact that you are finding tough to move on coz clueless cunt David Moyes (who you sucked) got SACKED by United.


    Come to St. Lawrence, I will teach you American English in 5 minutes. I promise I won’t take longer than that esp to teach dickhead like you. :) :)

  22. wayne barker says:

    Again have trouble understanding what’s being said you really are a very stupid person

  23. John says:

    Yeah, you are right in your head dumbo :)

    Anyway, how is moyes grandpa? :) :)

  24. wayne barker says:

    Whatever you say stupid,grow up you childish cunt

  25. John says:

    Grandpa, how is your demigod moyes?

  26. John says:

    Grandpa, how is your demigod moyes? :D

  27. wayne barker says:

    bad stutter,main causes inherited brain abnormalities,brain injury or mental health issues

  28. John says:

    Hahahaha…I am really sorry for you Grandpa but at your age those mental conditions of yours you stated are normal I think.

    I remember you once saying you went to psychiatrist after your Gym freak french neighbour took your sweetheart from under your noses when you were a hooligan and had no time for her. I am sorry I am not a psychologist but my god with all those mental conditions it must be hard for you.

    Anyway, now I can understand why you are a die-hard moyes fan. :) :)

  29. wayne barker says:

    Like I said before stupid grow up,you’re just a childish buffoon,now be a good boy and go play with the cars

  30. John says:

    Video selling Canadian cunt.

  31. John says:

    Anyway Grandpa I am done with you. If I see you showing disrespect to Genius Van Gaal then I will beat you bad. :(

  32. wayne barker says:

    Woooooooo shaking in my boots you childish fool

  33. United24 says:

    WTF. What is it I’m reading from Wayne and Slim Jim? LVG’s record of achievement does not impress you? League Titles with 4 clubs, Champions League Title, and 3 finals in all? THIS Dutch team with no world class midfielder or defender wins 5 games and ties two ( no losses in regulation!!!). What else do you want?

    By the way, our current squad just brings up about par with the 2013/14 version of the teams above us. The others have got at least 2 new players each who are at par/ better and so are AGAIN a step ahed. We need at least 2 new major signings. If tis is all our bisuness for the off seaon, nobody( Alex Fergson, Guardiola or Van Gaal) is going to get us top 3!!! Counting on Liverpool implosion and LVG factor to get us 4th spot!

  34. United says:

    hehehehehehehe.,,wayne fartass angry wid king lvg bcause his dear davey moyes getting sack. lololol….LMFAO

  35. tallestreD says:

    United24 what are you on about? That’s his opinion and this is yours and this is mine too…lol. I think LVG is what we need but at least let him enter OT first before the praises and/or bashing. For me as long as he’s a manger in the club I support, I support him too. Peace out!!!


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