Man Utd: Louis van Gaal is 'arrogant, dominant and honest'

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Louis van Gaal, new Manchester United manager
Louis van Gaal has been appointed as the new manager of Manchester United

While David Moyes often looked like a man who wondered if he was big enough for Manchester United, Louis van Gaal is so unburdened by modesty that he may wonder if Manchester United is big enough for him.

In a spot of typically measured self-analysis, the 62-year-old, who will assume control at Old Trafford after the Netherlands' World Cup campaign, announced: "I am who I am - confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, hard-working and innovative."

Van Gaal is all of those things and more. If United appeared an ill-fitting suit for Moyes then this much-travelled and well-decorated coach will regard the "Theatre Of Dreams" as tailor-made for his talent and pedigree.

After emerging as a visionary coach with an emphasis on attacking football and youth development at Ajax in the '90s - he won the Champions League in 1995 - he has had had a magnetic attraction for the biggest clubs with two spells at Barcelona and another at Bayern Munich, who he took to the Champions League final in 2010.

With United swiftly admitting the Moyes experiment had been an abject failure as a good man and decent manager floundered out of his depth, United have cut to the chase. They have gone short-term with a personality and coach who will apply more of a quick fix and will see Old Trafford as perhaps the final destination on a tour of Europe's elite destinations.

On almost every level, Van Gaal's appointment represents a significant change from the criteria United applied when bringing in Moyes as successor to Sir Alex Ferguson when he retired after 26 years as manager.

Moyes often seemed grateful United had come to him. Van Gaal will feel no such awe - indeed he may feel exactly the opposite. He will believe it is only right that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward chose someone of his calibre to undertake the great rebuild.

Stalking the touchline with menace, often carrying a clipboard for added impact, Van Gaal will not shy away from confrontation - if there are cages to be rattled and egos to be rocked at United he will be very comfortable doing the rocking and rolling.

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano, who worked at one of Van Gaal's former clubs Barcelona, was blunt about his confrontational approach, while at the same time acknowledging his success.

Commenting in March, Soriano said: "If you treat people badly they remember. One day you make an error and they will kill you. I've seen this in many clubs.

Louis van Gaal, new Manchester United manager
Louis van Gaal celebrates with Netherlands and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

"Louis van Gaal has been a very good coach in many clubs but his style is very difficult. The same thing happened to him in Barcelona as in Bayern Munich.

"He is very tough, people don't like him but he wins. And one day you won't win - and when you don't win everybody that is angry with you will come back and try to kill you. In the movies this works but in real life it doesn't."

Whereas Moyes seemed to shy away from making the big decisions, giving a title-winning side a chance out of apparent deference and respect as opposed to making the changes required, Van Gaal will have no hesitation in moving on those he feels no longer serve his purpose.

Van Gaal inherits a squad in need of serious renewal. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are going and Patrice Evra looks certain to be replaced by Southampton's Luke Shaw at left-back.

I would love Man Utd job - Van Gaal

He will, finally, be the man to tackle the quality deficit that has existed in Manchester United's midfield for years. The names of Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos and Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus are on the radar, while Dortmund defender Mats Hummels has also been linked.

What will he make, if anything, of United's £27m midfield misfit Marouane Fellaini when everything he has shown so far marks him down as a questionable inheritance for Van Gaal?

And what will become of unfulfilled fringe players such as Nani, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley? Will Danny Welbeck have a part to play?

Van Gaal will happily promote talented youth so Adnan Januzaj can be expected to get the chance to flourish and build on the precocious quality he has already demonstrated.

The appointment appears to be good news for United striker Robin van Persie after an injury-troubled season punctuated by suggestions of an uneasy relationship with Moyes and what seemed a dysfunctional partnership with Wayne Rooney.

Van Gaal is close to Van Persie, who cherishes such a relationship with his managers. He made him captain of the Dutch national team so it would seem certain he will be pivotal to the new Old Trafford era.

As a man not known for diplomacy, Van Gaal must tread a fine line in this area. It would be a hazardous occupation to be seen as favouring Van Persie over Rooney, who could hold his head up high as a player who gave everything for Moyes.

If Van Gaal is the innovator he believes he is, and his track record suggests, one of his major goals and proving grounds could be to make Van Persie and Rooney a workable football marriage while also finding a role for £37.5m Juan Mata.

Ryan Giggs, as assistant, provides a link with the past, and someone with experience of how this giant footballing beast works.

But from United's point of view, this is not an appointment without risk. Van Gaal's combustible personality takes this out of safe territory.

Van Gaal's finest hour was with Ajax in the mid-'90s, although he also took Bayern to the Champions League final four years ago. He has not coached at club level since being sacked by Bayern Munich in 2011. He will, however, undoubtedly have kept his finger on the pulse and will regard the United challenge as his destiny.

When he was linked with a role at Liverpool in 2012 following Kenny Dalglish's sacking he said: "My fingers are itching. I am full of fire and want to work with players."

He will get the chance at Manchester United. The flame still burns inside one of European football's most enduring and charismatic figures - now can he light the touch paper on a new era of Old Trafford success?


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