Louis Van Gaal – The Biggest Bastard In Town?
No one could ever label Louis Van Gaal a shrinking violet. His nickname – ‘The Iron Tulip’ – is becoming more and more apparent as the months pass and Manchester United fans en masse seem to be loving it.
The latest victim of his no-nonsense straight-talking, Victor Valdes, got it right in the neck over the last 24 hours.
In a press conference last night, the Dutchman gave Valdes both barrels, telling the assembled media the former Barcelona number one would be sold at the first opportunity. Van Gaal exclaimed that he had refused to play with the United reserves last season and “did not fit our philosophy”.
It’s quite incredible how a goalkeeper who has won six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues under the philosophy of the greatest club side to ever play the game of football can’t seem to fit his own.
‘It’s not you, it’s me’ is the great cliché in lots of break-ups. In the Dutchman’s case, it always seems to be the reverse: ‘It’s not me, it’s you’.
Valdes has fired back with a parting shot of his own on Twitter today. Four photos of his reserve appearances with the caption “Respect?” – It’s hard not to feel sorry for a player of his reputation to be treated so openly shoddily.
— Victor Valdes (@1victorvaldes) July 16, 2015
There are two sides to every story and Van Gaal’s contemptuous dismissal of a great professional, from the outside, seems pretty poor behaviour.
To provide balance, Valdes apparent refusal to play for the reserves flies in the face of logic considering his continued rehabilitation from a serious knee injury. One can only assume the former Barca stopper believed he would be afforded more first-team game-time and, at 33, and fit, had grown impatient.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Either way, it is Van Gaal’s way or the highway and there’s very little wiggle room either side of that, depending on who he’s dealing with. Some find it admirable, with a lot of Manchester United fans frothing at his powerful, withering put-downs.
Maybe it’s down to ‘Anti-Moyes’ syndrome. A year of having to put up with a nice, respectful guy in charge of one of the biggest, baddest clubs in the world might do that to a fan – especially having been so used to Sir Alex Ferguson for the best part of three decades in charge.
Fergie didn’t suffer fools gladly. Anyone not deemed absolutely vital to the cause who’d dare cross his path wasn’t for Old Trafford long. The problem was that they weren’t always fools.
On a few occasions he’d got it terribly wrong. Jaap Stam was infamously sold to Lazio at just 29. In an interview with MUTV years later, Ferguson admitted he regretted the decision terribly: “’When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there.’
David Beckham and Roy Keane – so synonymous with his own success – were others swiftly moved on when he deemed them to be getting out of their box – or in other words, not absolutely subservient to his every whim.
Bullish or Bully?
Van Gaal’s comments regarding Valdes – and Rafael, who he indirectly referred to as a player who can’t defend – are a throwback to the era of Ferguson and a ruler who dictates with an iron fist. Who can blame Manchester United fans for relating to that kind of behaviour? It is exactly what they’ve grown up with.
There is a way to handle things, though. Callously pulling apart Valdes’ professionalism like that in public, as well as slaying Rafael’s ability so openly, was unneeded. Unlike Ferguson, who had built up years of credit, Van Gaal has yet to win anything as United boss. Right now, he is skirting the thin line between bullish and bully.