Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Louis van Gaal's scrutiny at Manchester United reaches a new level

Tough action: Jonny Evans fights for the ball in Manchester United’s match against the LA Galaxy on their US tour
Tough action: Jonny Evans fights for the ball in Manchester United’s match against the LA Galaxy on their US tour

Jonny Evans thought he knew all about scrutiny after eight years in the white heat of Manchester United, but the last two weeks have taken it to another level.

Louis van Gaal's relentless quest to analyse which of his players will belong to the club's future have seen him install video surveillance equipment at the training facilities where the club have worked across the United States. The scrutiny of it has been painstaking.

"I think it's a lot more detailed at the training ground," said Evans of the battery of camera equipment which also awaits the players back home at Carrington.

"They have spent thousands on it and a few of the lads have seen HD cameras around the pitch."

He is right. Van Gaal has ordered an investment of £500,000 on this technology above the practice pitches in Manchester.

The suspicion among United's players is that he was having footage sent to him even when he was at the World Cup with the Netherlands, allowing him to begin his assessments while the players worked with Ryan Giggs and Albert Stuivenberg, the new assistant coach.

This scrutiny of training sessions is something new to British football.

Game discipline is everything to van Gaal – "how to play the ball on time. Be in space on time. The way you pass the ball to a team-mate in relation to an opponent. Thinking collectively during possession and when losing the ball," as he once described it.

This is the precision he has been demanding, not least of Evans, one of the three-man central defence who is being asked to play a high line, defending in the opposition territory at times, and yet being aware of covering for others when the moment demands

"He is telling me I should be five yards to the right," said Evans. "We are able to see things that are happening live on the pitch. We went through a video last night and I was 10 yards out!

"There are things you are doing on the pitch, and the whole team will be feeling the same, and you are thinking, 'am I in the right position?' Then he will show you in the video and you will know."

The feeling among the players is that Van Gaal, who had similar surveillance gear erected at Sabener Strasse, Bayern Munich's training ground, will be looking to use the HD footage to view close-ups of their faces, assessing when they are fatigued.

But their concentration levels are just as likely to be scrutinised. Van Gaal perceives concentration during a 60-minute training session as a prerequisite and any player who loses focus in that hour as a potential weak link.

"When I see that someone loses his concentration I explode," he once said.

Evans appears to have the qualities that Van Gaal demands. It is understood he is the centre-half the Dutchman is most impressed with, because he views him as a player more comfortable than Phil Jones or Chris Smalling in bringing the ball out of defence and passing.

Van Gaal, who admitted on Tuesday night that he was looking for more defenders, is desperate to sign a left-footed centre-back as he does not want three right-footed operators across the back three. That is why Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen fits the bill.

The Dutchman is understood to covet a back line, right to left, of Evans, Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Vermaelen.

Van Gaal also told the British national press this week that it may be three months before the new-look 3-4-1-2 United formation clicks and the players have received that message.

Evans revealed: "He said the same to us: 'You will find it hard.' Not so much the tactics and results but find it hard mentally because he is demanding and he wants us all to push ourselves to the limit."

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