Holland’s excellent World Cup bodes well for Man United revival
Whether you believe David Moyes was bowled a googly in taking up the Manchester United reigns from Sir Alex Ferguson or, whether you feel the Scot simply crumbled like England’s middle order – the omens look much rosier for the man taking up the Old Trafford hotseat.
Louis van Gaal had already forged a reputation as one of Europe’s finest coaches, well before he led his native Holland to the World Cup 2014.
After all, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager was due to take over at United regardless of what befell his Oranje squad in Brazil.
As it turned out, the tournament gave those of a Red Devils persuasion a very welcome snapshot of a master tactician at work – as Van Gaal led the Dutch to a third-place finish.
This in itself was a grand achievement, while only the lottery of penalties against Argentina prevented Van Gaal leading his side out against Germany in the Maracana for the tournament showpiece.
But simply coming third doesn’t do justice to the way Holland played and the way the players responded to Van Gaal in the dugout.
There were some absolutely terrific performances for starters.
Not least when destroying holders Spain 5-1 in their opening game, digging deep to squeeze past Mexico in the round-of-16 when the exit loomed large and rubbing salt into Brazil’s wounds by breezing to a 3-0 victory in the third-place play-off.
Van Gaal’s stamp was all over the success. Playing three centre-backs and wing backs looked an odd choice to start with, but it soon became clear this exactly the right way to utilise the resources available to him.
Any football boss who can get Ron Vlaar playing like Paolo Maldini and Dirk Kuyt to play left wing back to such great effect, must have fantastic man-management skills.
This was particularly evident in Robin van Persie’s high-fiving of Van Gaal after scoring against the Spanish and the gracious acceptance of goalkeeper Jaspen Cillessen to being subbed purely for the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica.
If someone with the relative inexperience of Brendan Rodgers can catapult Liverpool from seventh to second in one season, then the 11/2 about Van Gaal and United going one better in 2014/15 now has plenty of attraction.
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