Man Utd appoint Van Gaal: what's in store for the players?

Renowned disciplinarian, Louis Van Gaal

Disciplinarian Dutchman will be more Ferguson than Moyes, but Giggs can be the buffer

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 08:57 ON Tue 20 May 2014

One theme dominates the British media's response to the news that Manchester United have appointed Louis van Gaal as their new manager – discipline. No doubt about it, the 62-year-old Dutchman, the first from outside the British Isles to manage the club, comes with a hard-as-nails reputation. 

The Guardian says that van Gaal "likes discipline", and to prove it the paper claims he insists in his household that his daughters use the formal version of the word 'you' when addressing him in Dutch. If Van Gaal brings such a strict approach to Old Trafford then the United squad is in for a shock, particularly given that during the month Ryan Giggs was in charge following David Moyes' sacking in April they addressed him as "Ryan".

Sky Sports says that the decision of United to appoint Van Gaal rather than try and lure Diego Simeone from Atletico Madrid or Carlo Ancelotti from Real Madrid "does not come without risk". No one can dispute the Dutchman's pedigree – this is, after all, a coach who was won seven league titles, three domestic cups, two Uefa Super Cups and one Champions League crown – but Sky says United are "in danger of exchanging one 'dictatorship' for another", a reference to the 26-year reign of Alex Ferguson that ended 12 months ago. The broadcaster adds that Van Gaal's "abrasive character is the stuff of legend".

But it's not as if Van Gaal is labouring under any illusions about his approach, notes the BBC, which points out that the new United boss describes himself thus: "I am who I am - confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, hard-working and innovative."

There is plenty of praise from the BBC for what he has achieved in football but it warns that Van Gaal will rule with a rod of iron once he takes up his position after leading Holland in next month's World Cup in Brazil. "If there are cages to be rattled and egos to be rocked at United he will be very comfortable doing the rocking and rolling," writes Phil McNulty, although he adds that the presence of Giggs (who confirmed his retirement from playing on Monday) as Van Gaal's assistant will provide a crucial bridge between the manager's office and the dressing room.

The Daily Telegraph attempts to explain why Van Gaal has the reputation he does, revealing that his "strict, schoolmasterly air" comes from the 11 years he spent teaching in an Amsterdam school while playing semi-professional football. The harrowing death of his first wife from cancer 20 years ago also shaped Van Gaal's character, says the Telegraph. "Previously a regular churchgoer, he turned his back on his faith, saying he wanted nothing to do with a God who could permit such suffering."

Van Gaal's presence will enliven the Premier League next season, says the Daily Mirror, which adds that he will also "shake things up at Old Trafford regardless of what anyone else thinks". And to leave the United players in no doubt as to what awaits them in July, the paper sprinkles a few choice quotes from some of those players lucky - or unlucky - enough to have worked under Van Gaal in the past.

"Van Gaal is a dictator, with no sense of humour," was the opinion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, recalling his days at Ajax, while Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery muttered: "I haven't had fun on the pitch once under Van Gaal. I had had more than enough of it".

Still, at least United  players can console themselves with the knowledge that Van Gaal has signed only a three-year contract with the club. When his time is up, claims The Sun, he will "hand over the reins" to Giggs and a more relaxed atmosphere will return to Old Trafford.  "I am thrilled to have this chance," was how Giggs greeted the news of his appointment as the Dutchman's number two. "Louis van Gaal is a world-class coach and I know I will learn a lot about coaching from being able to observe and contribute at close quarters."

Then again, perhaps not. As the former Brazilian international Giovanni said of his time working with Van Gaal at Barcelona in the 1990s. "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." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.