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A New Dawn: The Red Devils welcome the Iron Tulip
BHANUJ KAPPAL  24th May 2014

Jane Campion, the president of the Cannes jury this year

anchester United fans all over the world heaved a sigh of relief on 19 May when the club confirmed Louis van Gaal as its new manager. The past 12 months haven't exactly been kind to us fans. As if losing one of the greatest managers of all time wasn't bad enough, the club chose to replace him with the footballing version of Manmohan Singh. Predictably, David Moyes quickly turned the most dominant English club of the Premier League era into a tragicomic soap opera — complete with embarrassing transfer gaffes, terrible losses to our biggest rivals and ugly rumours of revolt and dissension in the dressing room. Perhaps it was the pressures of a job too big for him, or the fact that he had to deal with an aging squad with too many egos and too little respect for a manager whose biggest achievement was one top-four finish in 11 years. But as the bad results piled up and Moyes visibly aged from press conference to press conference, it became glaringly obvious that he was the wrong man for the job.

In Louis van Gaal, United have finally hired a manager who is everything Moyes was not — a proven winner who oozes self-confidence and demands absolute discipline and loyalty from his players. If any man can banish the nightmares of this past season and return United to the top of the Premier League, it has to be the Dutchman, who once demonstrated that he had the guts to put Bayern Munich's biggest stars on the bench if he felt like it by dropping his pants in front of the entire squad at a team meeting.

Van Gaal's record speaks for itself: he's won 19 trophies at four clubs (Ajax, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and AZ Alkmaar) in three countries, including one glorious season in 1994-95 where his Ajax team went undefeated in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League. More importantly, he's a manager with a strong attacking football philosophy that will fit in perfectly with what we've come to expect from Manchester United. Van Gaal's teams are proactive, taking the game to their opponents, and he takes pride in "winning with beautiful football". He also has a track record of taking over clubs in transition, much like United, bringing in youth players and putting systems in place that last long after he's gone. He laid the foundation for Barcelona's incredible success in the last few years, bringing in players like Carlos Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta into the first team and laying the foundations for the high pressing style that his protégé Pep Guardiola would go on to perfect. He did the same during his short reign at Bayern Munich, where he signed Arjen Robben, converted Bastian Schweinsteiger into a central midfielder and eased the way for David Alaba, Thomas Müller, Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos into the first team.

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In Louis van Gaal, United have finally hired a manager who is everything Moyes was not — a proven winner who oozes self-confidence and demands absolute discipline and loyalty from his players.

This is exactly what United need, someone who can initiate a clean break from the past — both Moyes' disastrous season and the looming shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson — and mould the club to fit his own philosophy, one that emphasises modern tactics, attacking football and absolute discipline. He's not going to be intimidated by the pressures of the job, or by the prima donnas in the squad. If any of the players think they can get away with the lacklustre performances they put in under Moyes, they'll quickly learn better. Van Gaal believes that no player is bigger than the system, that any player who doesn't buy into his system will soon be out of a job, no matter how big of a star he is. And perhaps most importantly for United, given that Van Gaal rarely lasts at a club for longer than three or four years, he is the perfect man to mould his new assistant manager Ryan Giggs into a long-term manager for the club. Just look at what he did for Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, both of whom readily admit that they learned a lot from their time working under Van Gaal. With the club all set to clear out the dead wood and hand Van Gaal a £150 million transfer kitty, United could easily be challenging for the league once again.

But don't worry rival fans, your schadenfreude at United's fall from grace isn't necessarily over. There are no guarantees with Van Gaal, and it's quite possible that his reign at the club could be as disastrous as his last season at Barcelona, where he left the club three points above relegation. Or his first stint with the Netherlands, when he announced that he'd signed a six-year deal so that he "can win the World Cup not once but twice" before failing to qualify for said World Cup. And even if he is successful on the pitch, you will be guaranteed an absolutely entertaining spectacle. Look out for public bust-ups with players and the management, and press conferences where Van Gaal refers to himself in the third person, hands out scores to the media after a big loss, and just generally behaves like a quixotic madman with enough arrogance for 10 men. If you think Mourinho is obnoxious and controversial, you've got another thing coming. Whatever happens, this upcoming season promises more drama than a K serial. I can't bloody wait.

 
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