Louis van Gaal troubles at Manchester United are not surprising

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"Football should be enjoyable, but there has been nothing enjoyable about football at FC Bayern for a while now," explained Bayern's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge with no hint of glee back in 2011 when the decision to relieve Louis van Gaal of his position at the German club was announced. Sound painfully familiar, Manchester United fans?

"Barca may be at the top of the league, but the fans are unconvinced," noted Jimmy Burns in his book, Barca: A People's Passion of the Dutchman's first spell at the Nou Camp. "They have watched the team pathetically founder in Europe, while continuing to play lacklustre football in the League, winning seemingly by default rather than design."


Chief amongst the Cules' complaints that season was that Van Gaal had been playing a star player, in this instance Rivaldo, out on the wing instead of deploying him in his usual position on the wing. Starting to get worried now, Manchester United fans?

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After watching Manchester United struggle to another victory against Newcastle last night, it was hard not to feel exasperated - against the Magpies, Van Gaal's side were laboured and lucky - as has been the case for much of the season.

However the events that have unfolded this season aren't a huge surprise -  his time with other giants of European football will tell you that. In his spells with both Bayern and Barcelona lasted less than three seasons. He didn't manage longer than two years in two separate spells with the Netherlands either and the way he is going it wouldn't be surprise if he matched that at Manchester United.


With both Ajax and AZ he went past the magical three year mark, just in the case of AZ, but they pale in comparison compared to size of his other jobs - and that could be particularly telling. Although there's been relatively few signs of friction at Old Trafford except for a few choice words from Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, and a muted reaction from Ryan Giggs last night, the Dutchman's time in Europe could perhaps offer a hint what is happening at Manchester United.

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Van Gaal is an incredibly difficult man to understand. One Dutch journalist, Hugo Borst, even dedicated an entire book to answering the question: "Who is Louis van Gaal?" with varying degrees of success. 

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is hardly his biggest fan after the pair fell out during their time together at Ajax and at Barcelona, but offers a pretty telling insight. 

"When you have Van Gaal in charge, it is a fact that there is fear in his team and that is not always good,"  said the Dutchman recently. "I was his assistant at Barcelona after the World Cup in 1998 and I learned a lot of things from him, but there is a big difference between him and me as managers.


Graziano Pelle admitted Van Gaal 'drove me crazy' during their time together at FC Twente. Zlatan Ibrahimovic described him as a 'pompous arse'. His style is abrasive and absolute. He's not afraid to storm out of a TV studio on a whim, produce a dossier to show just how right he is or reveal his testicles in order to prove a point in a team-talk.

"Problems were created which were totally unnecessary and which have ripped the club to pieces," said Rummenigge back in 2011, while also highlighting friction with the board over selection issues. Clubs like Bayern, Barcelona and Manchester United are packed full of powerful figures and, when coupled with his fundamental approach to managing a team that could certainly be a problem in Manchester - especially if the football his team play doesn't improve.

Yet this is a man who has won the Champions League twice, who became the first Dutch coach to win La Liga and won the Eredivisie three times. This is also a man who has earned nothing but praise from inside the Manchester United camp so far, although how genuine that is remains to be seen.


And perhaps his time with Bayern and Barcelona can tell us more than just how it will end. When Jupp Heynckes took over from Van Gaal he went on to win the treble with a host of players that the Dutchman had developed. Van Gaal was the one who took Arjen Robben, undoubtedly the key man in their Champions League win, to the Allianz Arena. At Barcelona he has publicly taken credit for bringing on the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Victor Valdes. We all know what happened at the Nou Camp next, first with Frank Rijkaard and then Pep Guardiola.

So perhaps that is what we're witnessing now. Van Gaal has given youngsters such as Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair the chance to shine, and splashed some serious cash on Di Maria. Van Gaal is too absolute in his approach to last 20 years at one major club like Manchester United. He learned his trade from Marcelo Biesla - the master of the fundamentalist managerial approach - and if history tells us anything is that both tend to burn bright and fade away.

However Van Gaal has a history of laying foundations for major clubs to succeed in the future. It is likely to be his replacement that reaps the rewards of his endeavour. That may not be much comfort for Manchester United fans as they watch their side struggle through games, but it may offer some solace to find that Van Gaal has been in exactly the same position before.

How long do you think Van Gaal will last at Manchester United?

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Premier League
Manchester United
Louis van Gaal

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