Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Old Trafford ended with a trophy, the FA Cup no less, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Manchester United fan labeling the Dutchman’s two seasons at the club a success.
Sandwiched in between the dreaded ‘P’s ‘philosophy’ and ‘process’ was a serving of sterile, unambitious football that found no favor with the United faithful. Factor in an expensive squad restructure, €190.77m net spend over Van Gaal’s reign, that produced precious little and it’s easy to see why the Iron Tulip’s time was cut short.
One can only speculate whether United would have honored his contract had he steered the club into a Champions League position.
However, his efforts at United have been consigned to history and despite his less than stellar time in Manchester, Van Gaal can still boast a glittering, trophy laden resume. After an eventful career, he can enjoy retirement in his Portuguese villa, unless of course the right position comes up for the 64-year old.
“He’s thrilled about the level of the Belgium national team,” said Cees Wijburg, a friend of Van Gaal. Speaking to Andy Mitten on the United We Stand podcast.
Louis van Gaal as the head coach of Belgium, it’s an intriguing proposition. For all his perceived failings at United, the Dutchman’s second stint as the boss of the Netherlands was an unexpected success as he guided his troops to third place in the 2014 World Cup.
Going into the World Cup, the Dutch squad selected by Van Gaal was seen to be one of the poorest, quality-wise, in recent memory. Despite the limitations, he led his national side to the semi-finals, dismantling the defending champions Spain on the way.
One can argue mitigating circumstances such as a relatively kind run in the knockout phase but that should not detract from the fact that the Netherlands emerged from a group containing Spain (then World Cup holders), Chile (current Copa America champions) and Australia (current Asian champions). His tactical tweaks against Mexico played a big part in the Dutch turning around a one-goal deficit in the last vestiges of their round of 16 tie when all seemed lost.
Moreover, he was willing to switch from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 after cruelly losing Kevin Strootman to a serious injury just before the World Cup in Brazil. It was a significant gamble because if his tactical gambit failed, he would have been accused of unnecessarily ripping up the team shape for no discernible reason.