If reports are correct that Louis van Gaal will indeed replace the hapless David Moyes as the new manager of Manchester United come the summer, then Chief Executive Ed Woodward and club owners the Glazer family may wish they’d stuck to their guns and indeed given Moyes more of the time they had originally promised him on his appointment last year.
As the old saying goes, ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ and despite an absolutely incredible reign as manager of Ajax in the mid 1990s, where van Gaal lead the team to European Cup glory, subsequent managerial appointments have not been as successful, or without conflict.
So if United passed on Mourinho as is often suggested due to the ‘Special Ones’ uncanny ability to provoke reaction and controversy from all parts of the footballing universe, why would the Glazers risk further humiliation and potential stock market meltdown on a man said to have dropped his trousers in front of the entire Barcelona squad to ‘prove he had the balls’ to drop any player he deemed unworthy from the starting squad?
If United finally axed Moyes due to player revolt, van Gaal’s actions at Barcelona don’t auger well for those players hoping for a pat on the back, or a quiet word of encouragement and support when things aren’t going so well.
That said, man-management issues are not the only concern that MUFC will have as we rapidly head toward the conclusion of one of the most intriguing seasons ever.
With United now definitely out of the running for a Champions League berth for 2014/15, regaining their place for the season after must be priority number one. However, a quick rebound under van Gaal may not materialise. Playing the van Gaal way may not come naturally to many of United’s current players.
Based on Rinus Michels’ Total Football ethos, Louis van Gaal believes wholeheartedly in a collective responsibility in the way his teams go out and play. In other words, a midfielder should be quite happy to take over from a centre-back creating an attacking opportunity further upfield. Not something you might easily envisage the likes of Tom Cleverley or Shinji Kagawa implementing.
Indeed with van Gaal recently reverting to a classic 4:3:3 formation from the now commonplace 4:2:3:1, how and where would both Rooney and Juan Mata fit in, given that van Persie would undoubtably slot into the central striker role?
After all, ‘Gaalist’ football has been difficult enough for the Dutch national team to come to terms with, given their recent 2-0 defeat to Japan along with the fact that van Gaal himself has been quoted as saying ‘he wouldn’t expect too much of the Dutch national team at the World Cup.’
Such a huge shift in coaching technique will take time to return consistent winning results – something that United simply do not have.
Whilst van Gaal may have slightly better ‘pulling power’ than David Moyes in terms of attracting top players, a significant enough budget, despite protestations from CEO Ed Woodward, may not materialise, especially given recent concerns over the club’s FFP situation going forward. Which would mean having to work with players that he may not want, or indeed are not capable of playing the way van Gaal wants them to.
There’s no doubting the guy’s credential’s, but with the club’s stock market valuation so key to the long term profitability and ability to compete against those without similar leveraged debt hanging round them, a potential ‘loose cannon’ should be the last thing MUFC want right now.
But who am I to say? Better I leave you with the words of Bayern Munich president at the time of van Gaal’s tenure with the German club:
‘Football should be enjoyable but there has been nothing enjoyable about football for quite a while. To say he had players behind him is a myth. Problems were created which were totally unnecessary and which have ripped the club to pieces.’