Don’t Fear A Losing Start For Louis – Van Gaal History
Manchester United’s humiliating League Cup defeat to MK Dons last night made it two defeats and a draw in Louis van Gaal’s opening three matches, with seven goals conceded.
But, fear not United fans as the new boss is a notoriously slow starter, already stating he’ll need three months to a year to shape his new side. Here’s how he’s fared out initially at his previous clubs.
Having been assistant to Leo Beenhakker, van Gaal took over as manager of Ajax in 1991, congratulating the Board on appointing the “best coach in the world”.
This self-proclaimed title seemed foolish after a desperate start and irate fans were soon chanting “van Gaal out” and pleading for the return of Johan Cruyff as manager.
However the Iron Tulip turned things around, finishing runner-ups in the league to PSV and winning the club’s first UEFA Cup in his maiden season.
He went on to lead Ajax to three league titles and a Champions League in 1995, and his focus on youth helped nurture future stars such as Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Marc Overmars.
Van Gaal’s statement when taking over as manager at Barcelona in 1997 that “to complete the project may take several years” has a familiar ring to it.
The disciplinarian was quickly dubbed “Hitler” by some disgruntled players, and off-the-pitch endured a frosty relationship with press and club officials.
However, unlike at his other clubs, initial results on the pitch were promising. They did exit the Champions League at the group stage but he lead Barca to the La Liga title and Copa del Rey double in his first season.
He retained the league title the following season but left in 2000 after losing the title to Deportivo de La Coruña, blaming the press for his departure. “Friends of the press. I am leaving. Congratulations”, he uttered before taking over as Holland manager.
When van Gaal took the reins at AZ Alkmaar in 2005 the unfashionable side had only won one Dutch league title, as far back as 1981.
With the club lurking in third place after thirteen games, a further title under van Gaal’s guidance seemed unlikely.
He eventually steered them to the runner-ups spot in the Eredivisie at the end of his first season while quietly fashioning his own side.
After a poor third season and a dismal start to his fourth campaign, he switched to a hitherto untried counter-attacking style. It worked.
He led the club to only their second league title, with a side containing only one player who’d been at the club when he arrived. None of the rest had cost over £5 million. Van Gaal still ranks this as one of his greatest achievements, calling it his “greatest little masterpiece”.
Van Gaal declared Bayern Munich his “dream club” upon his appointment as manager in 2009. However, his start was a nightmare.
The club won only one of their first four matches, and there was intense speculation that the Dutchman was on the brink of the sack following a poor start to their Champions League campaign. They lay seventh in the Bundesliga after thirteen matches.
However, van Gaal stuck to his principles, signed compatriot Arjen Robben, promoted the likes of Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber from the youth ranks and slowly turned things around.
They ended the season spectacularly and came within one game of becoming the first German side to claim a treble, only to be beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the Champions League final.