Louis van Gaal would be the ideal Man Utd manager for Luke Shaw
Without wishing to bring Marmite – the sandwich filling that brushes far more discussions of football personalities than it does actual slices of bread – into the equation, Louis van Gaal is a manager who divides opinions.
To admirers, he is an advocate of attractive football, champion of gifted youngsters and deserving of mention as one of the best coaches on the planet having won league titles with all four of the clubs that he led, not to mention a Champions League at Ajax.
To the critics, he is arrogant, irritable and inflexible, and even though they can’t deny his short-term success, they question his ability to sustain it due to a knack of making enemies and a perceived unwillingness to adapt.
One member of the latter camp is Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano who earlier this year – before the Dutchman emerged as the frontrunner to take over at Manchester United – explained his stance.
He said: “If you treat your people badly, they remember. One day you make an error and they kill you. I’ve seen this in many clubs. Louis van Gaal has been a very good coach in many clubs but his style is very difficult.
“The same thing happened to him in Barcelona as in Bayern Munich. He is very tough, people don’t like him, but he wins. And one day you don’t win — and when you don’t win, everybody that is angry with you will come back to you and try to kill you.”
However, while it is true that LVG has fallen out with world-class players, most notably Rivaldo at Barcelona, a lot of the 21st-century heroes of Soriano’s former employers talk glowingly of the controversial tactician.
Andres Iniesta, who Sid Lowe reveals in “Fear and Loathing in La Liga” invited him to his wedding, insists that “he always treated me well”, while Xavi claims that “people see him as arrogant or aloof, but he’s really not”.
It is the Holland boss’ enthusiasm and skill for creating new stars which will appeal most to Man Utd at this transitional moment.
He brought through Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert at Ajax, debuted Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta at Barcelona and entrusted Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller at Bayern Munich, as well as remoulding Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Holland squad rated 28/1 outsiders to win the World Cup this summer will reflect his ideals too, with Ricardo van Rhijn, Joel Veltman and Memphis Depay among those to have been fast-tracked into the senior setup under his watch.
Luke Shaw, who is increasingly reported as being more likely to join Man Utd than Chelsea, who he grew up supporting, could be the latest to profit from his brilliance in converting prodigies into elite performers.
The 18-year-old Southampton left back, already an England international, would surely be a starter under Van Gaal, while the veteran general would also know how to maximise his attacking potential.
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