It’s the 13th of July, and The Netherlands have just brushed aside the hosts to secure third place at the 2014 World Cup. Yes, a team largely unfancied before the tournament to progress past the group stages, and was called the weakest Dutch side ever to go to a World Cup, had managed to finish third. How had this happened? Well yes, it was largely due to the individual brilliance of Arjen Robben, but let’s not kid ourselves, the main man behind the success was Louis Van Gaal writes Fin Crebolder.
Throughout the tournament he showed tactical flexibility to adapt to all problems he faced, from crushing the reigning World and European Champions in the opening game by playing a very non-Dutch 5-3-2, to changing his goalkeeper purely for a penalty shoot-out. These bold decisions of course paid off and increased his popularity and credibility throughout football. He had also recently been confirmed as the new Manchester United manager, and the United fans couldn’t wait for him to start, they were confident he would bring back the glory days that had disappeared for the previous season.
Fast forward just over two months, and Van Gaal has not had an ideal start. Despite a 4-0 win against QPR, he has still had a worse start to the season than his predecessor, David Moyes. His first four games were all unimpressive. A shock 2-1 defeat against Swansea at Old Trafford, followed by uninspiring draws against Sunderland and Burnley, and a humiliating 4-0 defeat to MK Dons, raised many questions about Van Gaal’s credentials for the job. However, it’s easy to forgot that for the first three Premier League games of the season Van Gaal was not able to pick his favoured team, due to injuries and the lack of signings.
The fact that in the first game where he had all his first team players signed and available, his team managed to dismantle QPR with ease is enough to give Man United some hope, and Van Gaal, as he’s admitted himself, has always struggled to get off to good starts wherever he has managed, due to his unique style and philosophy, which players can often take time to get used to. However, at all of these clubs, despite poor starts, he has always ended up delivering, and if he manages to keep his players fit and happy, then Man United should be back in the Champions League by May, and maybe, just maybe, this time next year, the giants of football will be fearing “The Gaalacticos”.
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