If reports are to be believed, the current Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal will be confirmed some time this week as the new Manchester United manager - a position he was first linked with 15 years ago, when rumours of the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson emerged in December 2001.
Alas, the initial failures of Manchester United during the 2000/01 season as well as a little persuasion from his wife inspired Sir Alex to rebuild the Manchester United team; 12 years of success followed in which United won a total of combined 18 national, European and world titles.
Whilst Sir Alex was rebuilding a dynasty, Van Gaal also achieved success winning national titles with AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich respectively. The failure to get the Netherlands national team to the 2002 World Cup, their first absence from the competition in 16 years was the only blemish during this period.
Thirteen years later and Van Gaal has the opportunity to takeover Manchester United once more. However, the current Manchester United team is the worse in the clubs history and completely opposite of what he could have inherited in 2001.
Has Sir Alex Ferguson and his wife undermined Van Gaal’s opportunity for a successful period as manager of Manchester United?
The Manchester United, Van Gaal could takeover is a shadow of itself from the previous season. The squad is ageing and under-performing, with the team suffering historic losses to Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion, Everton (both home and away) and more recently Sunderland.
Unlike the 2001 team, there are no core players such as Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs to structure the team around. Instead, Van Gaal has a squad that a majority of which will be sold in order to invest in new players, which is another issue for Van Gaal. What team would want to buy players such as Ashley Young and Nani on current form?
The absence of an effective playing style may also be a concern to Van Gaal. The revered ‘United way’ of football from 1992 to 2013 that involved fast passing and runs off the ball during Ferguson’s tenure has been forgotten. A distant memory in the United players.
Under the leadership of David Moyes and Ryan Giggs, United have been playing with a slow tempo that does penetrate opposition defences. Although, the blank canvas left by Moyes and Giggs may benefit Van Gaal, it will take a sufficient period of time to install his approach of playing the game; it took Brendan Rogers three seasons to alter Liverpool’s.
Van Gaal also has to perform this miracle in a limited timescale, with the Netherlands world cup ambitions his first priority. It could be until mid July before Van Gaal takes charge of Manchester United for the first team, depending on the World Cup fortunes of the Netherlands. By then all United targets may have new clubs.
However, replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is still a challenge to any future Manchester United manager. In 2001, Van Gaal if he had become manager like Moyes would have found the job difficult but the continued success up until 2013 may have made his task impossible. That is unless he wins a trophy in his first year at the helm.
In order for Van Gaal to correct the fortunes of Manchester United he will need patience from the board and the fans.
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