The urban dictionary defines “over-correcting”as a habit of looking for someone opposite to the person you just broke up with. And that was exactly what Manchester United did. Louis van Gaal (LVG) —Bundesliga, La Liga, Eredivisie, and Champions League winner —was named David Moyes’replacement in May 2014. The Brit who had started from the bottom and worked his way up was now replaced by a consummate winner. By no means was he Sir Alex, but at least van Gaal had the credentials to prove he was suited for the job. Manchester United was back.
Oh, how wrong we were.
A red herring from this hire can be traced back to 2002, when Sir Alex Ferguson considered retirement and van Gaal was managing the Netherlands. Louis van Gaal's hiring in 2014 was just a rehash from over a decade ago. But it begs the question.
Is reintroducing an outdated idea really a good idea?
Either way, LVG knew how to respond. In his two seasons at Manchester United, van Gaal spent over £100 million each season. Some players would become mainstays, such as Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial. But for the most part, the players he bought didn’t return the value Manchester United bought them for.
There were recognizable names, but they either failed to show or faded away.
Argentinian star Ángel Di María broke the record for the highest British transfer fee. A lack of early form meant he was used more as a multi-purpose role player than a position-secured star. Colombian goalscorer Falcao was sluggish from a knee injury that sidelined him for half a year. He saw limited starts before being sent to train with Manchester United’s youth team. Both would be gone after one season with van Gaal. Both would go on to thrive in France.
At least both Di María and Falcao would thrive again elsewhere. LVG was also responsible for acquiring aging veterans for supposed bargains: 3x Champions League winner Víctor Valdés and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger. A lack of production from both of them meant that they would be sent to the train with the youth team. Neither of them would play 40 games for Manchester United. Neither of them recovered their form.
But these four don’t even makeup half of what van Gaal spent. The rest was spent on lesser names like Ander Herrera, Memphis Depay, and Morgan Schneiderlin —all who added to van Gaal’s burning list of underwhelming transfers.
However, Louis van Gaal wasn’t contributing to his demise solely via transfers. He has a track record. For a who emphasized a “three-year plan”as his holy Bible, he surely didn’t commit full patience towards perfecting that plan. LVG is a perfectionist that has little room for versatility if he has a plan in place. And while it can be a positive to be firm, its narrow-mindedness can be catastrophic.
This was evident in the relationships van Gaal had with players. Incidents with big names like Rivaldo, Franck Ribéry, and Luca Toni were not exactly models of diplomacy. They served as players who were categorized under van Gaal’s pet peeve, players who failed to immediately develop into his system.
The most notable example for Manchester United was a tame one in comparison to the rest. A lack of depth in Manchester United’s first team meant that prospect Marcus Rashford was promoted. While his performances vitalized the team and earned van Gaal’s praise, the praise was momentary to the point a lack of continued team success and Rashford’s inexperience meant he was ripe for the picking.
And while there was and still is no sign of beef between LVG and Rashford, this instance of conflict may have been the most detrimental one to one of van Gaal’s coaching jobs. Players supposedly turned on him, citing blame onto his lack of proper transfer investment and underperforming tactics. It was this that was the nail in the coffin for Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United.
Or so we’d like to think. It’s not wrong to say van Gaal could have rubbed his players the wrong way. The team was lacking and van Gaal has a history of feuding with footballers, two highly explosive components. The former is most likely to blame for van Gaal’s sacking in 2016.
A prominent issue was that van Gaal made underperformance a trend. When Moyes was managing the club, underperforming seemed like a relatively new concept. So when van Gaal underwhelmed, these instances were slowly becoming normal. The club’s fanbase and executives, consistently enshrined with success, would refuse to accept a man who prolonged a trend that wouldn’t bring them those riches. The club could have waited for Louis van Gaal’s three-year plan to finish. But van Gaal’s outweighing failures and non-infectious personality were just not good enough to reward him with that chance.
The discussion of Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United ends with a bit of irony. LVG’s final stint at Ajax was cemented by a rash transfer he made. Though van Gaal was right in that the player was erratic, he was wrong to believe said player wasn’t of elite caliber. Fast forward years later to when van Gaal was replaced by JoséMourinho. Mourinho’s best transfer from the summer of 2016 was that said player van Gaal had sold —Zlatan Ibrahimović. Commence the tenure of José.
By Seho Park of GOALSTUDIO