David Moyes never lost the Manchester United dressing because he didn’t have it in the first place but that isn’t the same with Louis van Gaal.
Man United’s new boss exudes confidence from every orifice and seems unaffected by most barbs fired towards him about his philosophy, style and methods from fans and journalists alike. It’s that same self-made confidence which creates a sense of respect between van Gaal and his players.
There is no more weekly team news being leaked to the journalists, nor is there any public criticism of van Gaal from any of his players like Rio Ferdinand did under Moyes last year when questioning his training methods. The holes have been plugged and everything is tighter.
It’s that centralisation of power which allows van Gaal to stay in control, much like Sir Alex did during his reign, and speaking openly about his relationship with his players, van Gaal admitted he would leave if he didn’t feel the chemistry with his players any more, citing an anecdote from his time as AZ Alkmaar as an example of when his team chemistry was powerfully persuasive.
“When I think the chemistry between the players and the manager is not good enough anymore, then I go. It is not a question, I can go for myself also. I am in my first season here and I can still win the title, but that will probably go to Chelsea. What we have to do is continue in our process. But we have been in the top four longer than Arsenal this season. That is true.”
“When I see this chemistry between myself and my players, then I don’t have any doubts,” van Gaal said.
“Of course, we have disappointing moments but we can survive and we have confidence to qualify for the Champions League.
“I remember when I went to AZ, a very minor club in Holland. In my first season we were second, in my second season we were third and in my third season we finished 11th.
“I said to my players that I would go away. But the players then came to my house to ask me to stay, and so did the board. So I said, ‘Okay, I will stay.’ And, in the fourth year, we were champions.”
Van Gaal’s ‘high way or no way’ policy will not work with every player and goes some way as to explain why he generally never stays at a club for more than three years because of the confrontations that come as a consequence of his methods. That being said, when it works, van Gaal’s sides play wonderful football so there is method to the madness.
So far at United, that team chemistry has been elusive on the pitch in any great deal of consistency but with van Gaal remaining so confident there is no problem between him or his players, he’ll be expecting that chemistry to translate into regular performances sooner rather than later.