No-nonsense van Gaal to lay down the law
No-nonsense van Gaal set to lay down the law on his first day of work at Man United
Brace yourself, Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal is coming.
The Dutchman will officially start work at Carrington today and if the misfiring, under-performing stars of the club believe that they can get away with another season like last year, they're in for a nasty surprise.
Van Gaal has no time for reputations or bad attitudes.
He will expect hard work, obedience and immediate success.
His first task will be to choose a new club captain, a decision that shouldn't have a tangible effect on anything, but in reality is a political hot potato.
There have already been suggestions in the press that Wayne Rooney believes his seniority entitles him to the armband, but van Gaal, who values loyalty, may take a dim view of the Englishman's repeated attempts to leave the club for their rivals.
Robin van Persie, a noted lieutenant of his, is the obvious choice, but his appointment could look like favouritism.
Then there is the question of training.
Initially, United's players welcomed David Moyes' focus on fitness, but that soon wore off.
Van Gaal has plans for double training sessions and is already arranging facilities for players to stay at Carrington in special boardings.
Expanded training sessions are always a risky move.
Footballers tend to resent being made to work harder or longer than they have worked before.
But opposing van Gaal would be an unwise decision for any player who wishes to stay in Manchester for an extended period of time.
Tactically, it will be fascinating to see how van Gaal sets his players up.
He took Holland to within a penalty shoot-out of the World Cup final using a back three, but United are not at all accustomed to that shape.
With Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Johnny Evans, they would certainly have players with the pace and judgment to make it work, but it would still be a gamble.
It is more likely than van Gaal will opt for a variant of 4-3-3, the formation he almost certainly would have used had he not been robbed of the services of Kevin Strootman shortly before the tournament began.
That means just a single striker, which will again force a choice between van Persie and Rooney.
Given the anger and offence caused by Moyes' innocuous comment last summer about Rooney being "good back-up" to van Persie, van Gaal will have to tread carefully. Will Rooney settle for a role out wide?
There will surely be new arrivals to the club as well.
Luke Shaw is likely to be given a first-team slot, now that Patrice Evra has made his intention to leave clear and, with Alexander Buttner already out the door, more back-up will be required.
Ander Herrera's arrival from Atletico Bilbao finally gives United some dynamism in the middle, but he can't do it on his own.
Michael Carrick was poor last season and isn't getting any younger.
Darren Fletcher has struggled with health issues, Marouane Fellaini has flailed hopelessly in the centre for club and country and the less said about Tom Cleverley the better.
Perhaps van Gaal will give Anderson one more chance to fulfil his potential.
The Brazilian midfielder has been named in the club's pre-season tour to the United States.
There were many reasons for Moyes' failure, but his caution and indecisiveness certainly ranked highly.
There will be none of that from van Gaal.
He believes himself to be the best in the business and he will take it as a personal insult if the players do not agree.
With hard work, intelligence and better players, there is no doubt that he can restore United to their perch, especially given that last season was so open.
But he will not stand for dissent and he will quell all opposition.
If nothing else, the next few months are going to be hugely entertaining.
I hope the group in Manchester will become like this (Holland) one. We have to sing from the same hymn sheet. I hope at Manchester United I can do my best. I will do my best. Whether that’s enough for the fans, I will wait and see, but I genuinely hope that will be the case.
- Louis van Gaal
'Van Gaal needs time at United'
Don't expect Louis van Gaal to deliver instant success.
That's the view of former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen, who believes his Dutch compatriot has a tough task ahead of him in the Premier League after what he believes is the "end of an era" for the Red Devils.
Van Gaal was appointed as successor to David Moyes ahead of the World Cup, following the Scot's nightmarish 10-month stint in charge of the 20-time league champions.
The Old Trafford faithful have seen a glimpse of van Gaal's technical nous during Holland's World Cup campaign, which saw the Oranje narrowly miss out on a place in the final and eventually finish in third place.
But Meulensteen (above) believes his fellow countryman will need some time to find his feet in the Premiership.
"I think what fans need to consider is that this season will be a new start for United," Meulensteen told Kick Off.
"It's almost like it's the end of an era at the club, with Ryan Giggs hanging up his boots and players like (Rio) Ferdinand and (Nemanja) Vidic all leaving - it's a big change for the team.
"Nobody expected what would happen under Moyes last season and obviously United will want to leave that behind them as quickly as they can.
"In that respect, van Gaal is a man with a very strong personality and a very strong philosophy, so he will try to implement that process right away.
"But not only will the players have to buy into his philosophy, people must also realise the process will take time. At this moment, he has to build a new team because United are still a team that can be beaten, unless proven otherwise at the start of the new Premier League season."
Van Gaal is thought to be in the market for at least one centre back this summer, with both Vidic and Ferdinand having departed Old Trafford on free transfers at the end of last season.
Borussia Dortmund and Germany defender Mats Hummels is one of the players who has been linked with a switch to Old Trafford and former United defender and TNP analyst Paul Parker thinks that the 25-year-old could thrive at United.
"The one player who really jumped out at me at the World Cup as a player I'd love to see in the Premier League was Mats Hummels and he would be a wonderful signing for United," Parker wrote in his Eurosport column yesterday.
"At Old Trafford, they have lost two centre halves in Ferdinand and Vidic, who were world class up until quite recently but who were dying on their feet by the end of their United careers.
"United are desperate for a player in that position who is of proven quality and Hummels has been doing it for the last few years at Dortmund and showed just how good he is at the World Cup."
Hummels signed for Dortmund from Bayern Munich back in 2009.
- Wire Services.