Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was surprised by the intensity of the Premier League and the busy Christmas schedule during his debut campaign at Old Trafford, but will be better prepared for those challenges next season, according to Phil Neville.
Speaking on BreatheSport, the former Red Devils defender thinks the club's slow start to 2014/15 was partly due to the fact the veteran Dutch coach had never worked in England before and is the reason why they finished a whopping 17 points behind champions Chelsea.
However, he's tipped his old club to mount a stronger challenge for the domestic title next term and pointed to Van Gaal's track record of delivering trophies as reason for supporters at the Theatre of Dreams to be excited about the future.
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"I think the league surprised Louis van Gaal," he said. "I think he got caught out, I think he was surprised with the intensity and playing over that Christmas period. I think it took a lot out of him.
"He'll be better for it next year [though]. He's struggled with his system early on, trying to fit players into the systems. I think he'll be better off next year, history says he wins trophies and that's what United fans are hoping for."
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Van Gaal's appointment after the sacking of David Moyes at the start of last year coincided with a renewed sense of optimism amongst fans for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 that Manchester United could get back to the glory days and restore their reputation as a European powerhouse.
Successful stints at Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona meant that the 63-year-old arrived in England off the back of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a CV to suggest he's capable of delivering at the highest level.
And, despite an underwhelming start to life with the Red Devils he managed to regain supporters' faith by helping to club qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish in the league.
That was the minimum requirement outlined at the start of the season, and now Van Gaal will be hoping to build on that achievement by securing some silverware in 2015/16.
In the early days it was difficult for the Dutchman to find a formation and settled line-up that worked, but as the season went on Manchester United grew stronger and stronger, and following impressive victories against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur there is now a feeling they can be a genuine threat to the Blues next term.
Manchester United fans: Do you think Louis van Gaal can deliver the Premier League title at Old Trafford next season? Who else would you like to see him sign to help in their push for silverware? Have your say below…
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