Netherlands boss shows a sign of things to come for United fans.
Brave, cocky, daring, eccentric, whatever you want to call it – Louis van Gaal’s managerial performance to guide the Netherlands through to the World Cup semi-finals last night was brilliant, and something for fans of Manchester United and English football as a whole to be excited about next season.
The Dutchman, who is set to take over full time at Old Trafford after this tournament, made one of the most exciting decisions of the whole competition so far by bizarrely substituting his goalkeepers at the end of extra time to prepare for a penalty shoot-out, bringing on Newcastle United’s Tim Krul in place of Jasper Cillessen to face the task of unsettling the Costa Rica players and making the saves needed to help his country to their first-ever penalty shoot-out win at a World Cup.
With so much at stake, van Gaal’s decision put him in a situation where he couldn’t really lose: such an unorthodox move took a lot of pressure off his players, even the goalkeeper in question, who would surely not be to blame after being thrust into the action out of the blue like this, as opposed to the man who put him there in the first place. On the other side of it, if it worked, as it did, it would see him hailed as a genius even though his side should perhaps be beating opposition like Costa Rica with a bit more ease in normal time.
There was something very Jose Mourinho-like about van Gaal ensuring that he would be the centre of attention after this game, when it must be said his players should have done better as they tried but failed to break down this stubborn opposition. This was a perfect Mourinho or Ferguson-esque masterstroke in distraction, and it’s the kind of performance United fans will love after a nightmare season of David Moyes.
It takes a big personality to replace a legend such as Sir Alex Ferguson, and after supposedly neglecting to offer Mourinho the job last summer, United may now have the next best thing in their new Dutch head coach. The vastly experienced 62-year-old has had his ups and downs in his career, with notable fallings-out with some big-name players along the way. There’s no doubt he’s a big ego, and that is what United should always have been looking for when it came to finding their next manager.
The uninspiring, out-of-depth Moyes was doomed right from the start, and his leadership led to an unthinkable drop from first to seventh in the space of a year, with an arguably better squad on paper simply looking scared and clueless under his management. 2013/14 has been a real wake-up call not just for United but for all big clubs – no one is immune to a spectacular collapse if those put in charge of your club are not up to the task. Yesterday’s show from van Gaal can be a great sign of things to come for United: a return to their past glories under a superbly charismatic leader.
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