Pitchside Europe

What Manchester United can expect from Louis van Gaal


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Keen students of the European game probably know all there is to know about new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal.

But most of us do not spend our spare time reading Mundo Deportivo and stalking James Horncastle and Andy Mitten on Twitter.

So here is a summary of the life and times of the Netherlands coach, who is expected to be Manchester United’s next manager:


- Born in Amsterdam on August 8, 1951 (age 62)

- Came through the Ajax youth system but never played for the first team, turning out as a midfielder for Royal Antwerp, Telstar, Sparta Rotterdam and AZ.

- Played semi-professionally for much of his career, while also working as a PE teacher.


- Was assistant coach at AZ and Ajax before following Leo Beenhakker into the manager’s job at the Amsterdam giants in 1991.

- In six years at Ajax, won three Eredivisie titles, a Dutch Cup, a UEFA Cup and the 1995 Champions League, also losing the 1996 final on penalties.

- Moved to Barcelona, where he won two Liga titles in three years, but a fraught relationship with the press and some players led to his resignation following Deportivo’s 2000 title victory.

- Had an unsuccessful two-year spell as Netherlands manager, failing to qualify for the 2002 World Cup and quitting as a result.

- Was expected to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United boss until the Scot reneged on decision to retire; instead briefly managed Barcelona again.

- Second spell at Barca was a failure; followed by brief tenure as Ajax technical director, before he was named AZ manager in 2005.

- Spell at AZ hugely successful, winning an unprecedented Dutch title and twice finishing inside the top three.

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- Named Bayern Munich coach in 2009, winning the double in his first season before falling out with players and finding himself sacked midway through the second.

- Appointed Netherlands coach for a second time in 2012, leading them to the World Cup finals in Brazil with a 9-1-0 record, scoring 34 and conceding just five.


- Van Gaal is a dominant, controlling, even arrogant type-A character, with little time for the foolish and even less time for the precious.

- Those acquainted with Dutch culture will know that the progressive veneer barely masks a straight-talking directness that many find blunt or even rude; Van Gaal fits this mould, and regularly comes into conflict with players, directors and the press.

- In addition to his strong personality, Van Gaal is also rather eccentric, with some of his behaviour barely tolerable for many who have worked with him.

- However, Van Gaal is able to laugh at himself, with this comic interlude during his time as a Dutch TV pundit showing a self-awareness of his reputation:


"Louis van Gaal has nothing to learn"

"I have achieved more with Ajax in six years than Barcelona has in one hundred years"

"Don’t ask me stupid questions"


- Van Gaal once pulled down his pants to expose his testicles to the Bayern Munich team, to prove to his charges that he “has the balls” to drop anyone, regardless of reputation.

- He pushed a 14-year-old Gerard Pique to the ground, in front of his Barcelona director grandfather, telling him he was “too weak to be a Barcelona defender”.


"Van Gaal is the Hitler of the Brazilian players, is arrogant, proud and has a problem. He has no idea of football. His type is sick, he's crazy" – Giovanni

"I haven't had fun on the pitch once under Van Gaal. I had had more than enough of it" - Franck Ribery

"Louis is actually extremely warm-hearted, but he doesn't get the idea of being nice to people he doesn't think are nice" – his wife

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