What Holland’s World Cup run means for Man United

The Rio Report

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At times it felt almost cruel, like intruding at a wake, but Louis Van Gaal simply will not care.

His Dutch side were brilliant and ruthless once again, easily dismantling a Brazilian team that seemed almost in a state of shock.


Seven goals conceded against Germany were followed by two swift ones in this third-placed play-off, essentially ending the tie as a contest (before a late third finished it off) and allowing Van Gaal to play to the gallery once again.

He did that by bringing on Michel Vorm for the final two minutes, ensuring every member of his 23-man squad played during the World Cup. Jasper Cillessen must surely be the first goalkeeper to be substituted twice during a tournament without suffering an injury.

Brazil had conceded nine goals in 96 minutes of football and Van Gaal was having a blast. This has been almost the perfect tournament from the Holland boss, and it will be fascinating to see how he gets on at Manchester United.

Holland's only defeat came on penalties in the semi-final to Argentina, and their record against Spain, Chile and Brazil stands at 10 goals scored and just one conceded.

Allied to that, Van Gaal has shown he has the ability to change a game with a bold substitution, something many of the top managers are unable to do.

Three times Holland came from a goal behind to win, which is something no side has ever done in a World Cup before.

They found different ways to win, too - from the ruthless counter-attacking against Spain and Chile to the gung-ho side that somehow found a way against Mexico.

Van Gaal also showed he is able to come up with specific plans for each opposition side he faced. Some of his contemporaries in the Premier League prefer simply to concentrate on their own side, sending out their team in the same fashion no matter who they are playing against.

But Van Gaal analyses and reacts. Against Chile he instructed his team to sit deep, before striking late on. Against Argentina he nullified Lionel Messi using first Nigel De Jong and then Jordy Clasie.

The only misfortune is that the plan against Argentina didn't work in full, with his side unable to find the late goal he had expected them to. His players then failed him, with two refusing to take penalties and Ron Vlaar, the centre-back, missing their first one as a result.

There has also been some high-class psychology going on too, specifically when Tim Krul came on for Cillessen in the quarter-final against Costa Rica as penalties loomed.

It was an almost unprecedented move, certainly at this stage of a major tournament. Krul felt – and looked, to Costa Rican eyes – 10 foot tall, and his two saves were crucial.

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So can we expect more of the same at Old Trafford? Absolutely.

Van Gaal is not having any time off before taking charge of Manchester United, and will be on their pre-season tour of America. He is expected to arrive in Manchester on Tuesday and will be formally unveiled next week.

It is hard to think of a more intriguing managerial appointment in recent times, and the Manchester press pack are well aware they face a challenging few months ahead of them.

Key amongst Van Gaal's decisions will be the captaincy, and it is expected he will choose Robin Van Persie over Wayne Rooney. The Dutch captain's World Cup failed to really catch fire after a wonderful opening game against Spain, but he and Van Gaal clearly get on well and their relationship will be key.

It will also be interesting to see how Van Gaal's signings do. The last player Van Gaal signed was Luiz Gustavo, who played against him on Saturday night, the Brazilian moving to Bayern Munich from Hoffenheim in January 2011.

Now Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have arrived at Old Trafford, a far more impressive season is in the offing. There will be others too, with rumours the club are chasing Arturo Vidal growing ever stronger.

And there can be no question that United fans will have liked what they have seen of Van Gaal during this tournament.

Uncompromising, ruthless and hard-nosed, Van Gaal has judged almost everything perfectly, while creating a fine team spirit.

He has shown he is able to form a team for any situation and any opponent, change the course of a game with canny substitutions, and inspire his players to going above and beyond what they thought possible.

“This is the best group I have ever worked with,” he said after their final game. “We scored over two goals per game and conceded only four goals.”

Van Gaal has shown the world, and Manchester United, what he is all about. Few would bet against him succeeding at Old Trafford after his own performances during this fantastic tournament.

Julian Bennetts has been covering all things Netherlands at the World Cup for Eurosport.

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