Belfast Telegraph

Louis van Gaal is fun but laughs alone won't be enough for Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

Don't you just love Louis van Gaal? Come on, admit it, even if you aren't a Manchester United fan, there is something about him that draws you in.

Like his fun filled speech at the club's player of the year awards on Tuesday night.

The Old Trafford boss spoke passionately about his team's roller coaster season, at one stage punching the air when telling a story about Wayne Rooney.

At the end of seven rousing minutes, Van Gaal started to leave the stage and the smiling audience, spellbound by the charismatic Dutchman, thought that was that.

Far from it. Van Gaal, who had enjoyed the hospitality on offer, returned to grab the microphone again, perturbed that due respect had not been shown to the musical entertainment for the evening.

He roared: "Pay attention to the manager - Ryan Giggs said to me, and he is always right but in this case particularly right. I have said to you - you are the best fans in the world but tonight I was a little bit disappointed and I shall say why.

"I have seen a lady who plays the saxophone fantastically. Give her big applause."

And of course everyone did before Van Gaal finally took his seat beside assistant manager Giggs, who he playfully clipped round the ear during a charity auction much to the amusement of those sitting nearby.

The thing is, this wasn't a boss caught off guard in a few moments of mirth and madness. This was Louis van Gaal... the one and only.

There have been numerous other times during a marvellous managerial career with Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Holland when his bizarre behaviour has caused a stir and raised a laugh.

It's just that because he wasn't in charge of an English team then you never heard about them. Now all of us on these islands are getting to know the eccentricities of the 63-year-old... and what's not to like?

There is an honesty about him when speaking to the media that other managers find difficult.

For instance in relation to David de Gea, who won the big prizes at United's awards function, Van Gaal admits that the goalkeeper could go to Real Madrid in the summer.

The Spaniard has excelled in a season where Van Gaal was never under serious pressure from United supporters relieved to see someone else bar David Moyes in the dug-out.

And this even when, on more than one occasion, LVG did not appear to know what he was doing.

More of the same next term and he won't get such an easy ride from the fans, even if many of them respect his past achievements in the game.

The main aim for Van Gaal in his first season was to take United back into the Champions League after an embarrassing seventh place finish under Moyes.

Mission accomplished having splashed out around £150 million on Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, though you couldn't say any have been a roaring success. Most have failed.

No matter, Van Gaal is being given another £150 million to spend with midfielder Paul Pogba and defender Mats Hummels his chief targets in the coming transfer window.

He may need a quality goalkeeper too to replace De Gea, who inspired United to be a top four side again.

Fourth has been acceptable this time, but it won't be next. United fans are used to being first and that's where they will demand to be.

With Jose Mourinho intent on Chelsea domination in England and beyond, LVG has a major test on his hands. His opening campaign at Old Trafford has been fun but laughs alone won't cut it in season number two. Van Gaal can talk the talk. For Manchester United, he must prove he can also walk the walk.

Belfast Telegraph


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