Louis van Gaal; Revolutionary or Traditionalist?
Louis Van Gaal achieved what many did not expect at this Summer’s World Cup in Brazil. He guided the Netherlands to a surprising semi final place but eventually was outdone by Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a penalty shootout. Van Gaal used many different formations in the build up to these World Cup finals; 3-4-3, 5-3-2 and 3-5-2 were among the most regular systems deployed which did not sit particularly well with the constantly disgruntled Dutch sports media. The sports press were less than complimentary and criticised the task master for his tactics and were less impressed with the style of play during the competition. To say that Van Gaal’s Netherlands were conservative would be putting it lightly, with all the attacking players at his disposal would it be presumptuous to expect a little bit more of an expressive style of play?
Van Gaal has a very good CV he has won the Eredivisie four times, three with Ajax between 1993 and 1996. He also against all odds took AZ Alkmaar all the way in 2009. Added to that he won 2 La Liga titles with Barcelona and the one title with Bayern Munich in 2010. It is an impressive CV but one thing that must be said is that with the exception of AZ his other previous achievements were an extension of a predecessor’s hard work a bit like the Swansea situation which was created by Everton’s Roberto Martinez.
Manchester United fans have shown real signs of jubilation of Van Gaal’s appointment, a little bit too much in my opinion. The former Dutch coach has made enemies wherever he has been and if United think that they are signing someone that is of the same mould as Sir Alex Ferguson they could well regret this appointment. Like him or loathe him Ferguson was hard on players but he always picked his fights wisely, if there was one thing he excelled at is what reading a player and motivating them. Ferguson knew that each player’s mentality is different and he knew which buttons to push on any individual player. I am not too sure Van Gaal has that same valuable ability. During the World Cup he was branded many things, a genius and a master tactician were among the praise he received mainly from the British media it must be said. I did not really see that. There was talk of Van Gaal being a revolutionary coach but what i saw was safe, conservative not very progressive counter attack Football. Not exactly the free flowing Football that we have become accustomed to from the “total football” Dutch. Bert van Marwijk tried a similar style in the 2010 World Cup until he was found out by Spain’s tiki taka generation.
Under Ferguson Manchester United at times were free scoring something you can’t label any Van Gaal team, his Dutch side finished this World Cup failing to score in 240 minutes of football, they were made to work against Costa Rica in the quarter finals, a game that they flattered to deceive for large parts. One word that would describe his style of play would be “economical”
I am not saying that Van Gaal will not be a success at Old Trafford but fans need to be realistic and be prepared for a long slog. it will take time for “The Van Gaal Revolution” to take shape but do not expect much enthralling displays he is a conservative coach he manages more like an Italian coach not a Dutchman. He has never been an advocate of total football something that has been dead for sometime and he never will be.
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