Three times it went wrong for Manchester United-linked Van Gaal
David Moyes’ brief tenure at Manchester United may have been a miserable one but Louis Van Gaal, the red hot favourite to replace him, has endured his fair share of ups and downs.
A title winner in Holland, Spain and Germany, the current Holland international team boss has become the 8/11 favourite to be appointed the new manager of the Red Devils according to Ladbrokes, with Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti the nearest contender at 5/1.
However, while it’s difficult to argue with Van Gaal’s track record of success, the erratic Dutchman has been at the heart of a few conflicts over the years that may have United fans sitting less than comfortably.
Holland National Team
While Van Gaal’s second stint with the Netherlands has proven more successful, his first bite at the Oranje was something of a mess. He hardly helped himself in his opening press conference smugly explaining: “I’ve signed a contract with the Dutch national team until 2006, so I can win the World Cup not once but twice.”
Taking over a squad boasting the likes of the De Boer brothers, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Euro 2000 top scorer Patrick Kluivert, the Dutch were expected to progress from a qualifying group containing tricky opponents Portugal and Mick McCarthy’s Ireland.
Things started badly though with a Holland team full of clashing egos dropping points in a 2-2 home draw against the Republic before losing 2-0 at home to Portugal a month later. Though they fought till the end, Ireland and Jason McAteer ultimately sealed their fate with a famous 1-0 win at Croke Park. Van Gaal departed with his reputation in tatters.
Barcelona and Rivaldo
While the early years of Van Gaal’s reign at the Nou Camp were highly successful, his time at the club was still punctuated with incident.
First there’s the story of the time he met a 14-year-old Gerard Pique. Rather than offer a handshake or friendly hello, the Dutchman opted to push the youngster to the ground, declaring: “You’re too weak to be a Barca defender!”
Then there were his clashes with Rivaldo, at the time, considered the best player in the world. The only problem was that while the Brazilian favoured playing through the middle for the Catalans, Van Gaal wanted him out wide.
Rivaldo then began a process of, whenever played out on the left, passing the ball back down the line to the full-back Winston Bogarde. Van Gaal opted to respond in kind, with the World Cup winner benched and transfer-listed.
A loss of form saw Van Gaal depart, but just when it looked like Rivaldo had won, the Dutchman was rehired in 2002 in a move that prompted the Brazilian’s transfer to AC Milan.
“Van Gaal is the main cause of my departure,” Rivaldo said on Brazilian television at the time “I don’t like Van Gaal, and I am sure that he doesn’t like me, either.”
“He lacked commitment to the club, he was only interested in making more money and playing less,” Van Gaal responded.
Barca struggled on without Rivaldo with the Dutchman sacked midway through the season with the Catalans languishing near the bottom of the table.
Bayern Munich and Luca Toni
Before Van Gaal arrived in Munich, Luca Toni was a Bundesliga phenomenon, bagging 24 goals in 31 games during his first title-winning season with the Bavarians.
But things soon turned ugly under the Dutchman, with the Italian failing to adhere to the strict principles of the former Ajax coach. While reports suggest the problems first began after Toni was caught napping during a team meeting, it was another collective encounter that sticks in the mind of the Azzurri World Cup winner.
Speaking to Sport Bild, Toni recalled a time when Van Gaal was keen to show he had the cojones to drop the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and the Italian striker.
“He demonstrated this literally by dropping his pants. I have never experienced anything like it, it was totally crazy,” the Italian said.
“Luckily I didn’t see a lot, because I wasn’t in the front row.”
The move backfired and after a bad start to the season, Van Gaal was sacked.
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