Man United: volatile Van Gaal erases the memory of Moyes

Jul 18, 2014
Jonathan Harwood

New Old Trafford 'super coach' brings a different approach to his predecessor

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Louis van Gaal cut a very different figure to his hapless predecessor, David Moyes, as he was formally unveiled as Manchester United manager on Thursday, and his appearance provided ample evidence that United's absence from the title race last season may have been a one-off.

United pulled out the stops as they presented Van Gaal to the media and the contrast with Moyes's arrival a year ago could not have been greater. While the former Everton man was given a muted welcome at Old Trafford, Van Gaal got "the works" says Paul Wilson of The Guardian.

The Dutchman was ushered in to face the press by United legend Bobby Charlton, there was an introductory video featuring glowing testimonials from the likes of Clarence Seedorf, Gianfranco Zola and Ronald de Boer.

The Dutchman was seated at a "gleaming" new desk and behind it stood a photomontage from which Van Gaal "gazed heroically upwards into the middle distance in the manner of a sovereign depicted on a banknote".

He then gave a glimpse of his approach as he fielded questions with confidence, charm and a touch of steel.

The contrast with events 12 months ago could not have been greater, says Jim White of the Daily Telegraph.

At his unveiling Moyes wore the "perplexed expression of a taxi driver who has been mistakenly hauled from the green room into the studio of a rolling news channel... [and] behaved as if he thought he were about to be found out".

Van Gaal on the other hand "strode" into the room, "back straight, chin up, looking as relaxed as if he owned the place".

The new United boss "is not a man who does self-doubt," says White. "Forget the Chosen One – his time now airbrushed from United history – Van Gaal's self-styled sobriquet is much more significant: please welcome the Number One."

Van Gaal rejected suggestions that he was "autocratic" insisting that he took a "democratic" approach, but "there could be no mistaking where the decisions will ultimately be made".

Paul Wilson of the Guardian was impressed by Van Gaal's acknowledgement of the importance of United's commercial operation. "United are presently milking their brand for all it is worth and Van Gaal, in the sense that he is an accepted super coach... is a part of that strategy," he says. "The Dutchman knows how to play the game."

But James Ducker of The Times is not so sure. He notes that Van Gaal showed his brusque side when dealing with one persistent questioner asking for a prediction of how his first season would end.

His appearance felt like a "charm offensive" says Ducker. "There were certainly enough hints of his volatility and capacity for conflict to suggest life at Old Trafford will be anything but dull under him.

"Executives have seldom had it easy working with Van Gaal and his pointed remarks about the extent of the commercial commitments expected of him at Old Trafford suggested that could prove a source of considerable tension."

But his excitement about the challenge was apparent, and he made it clear he wanted more than just Champions League qualification when he said: "For me, the challenge is always [to be] first and not fourth."

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