Van Gaal: stronger dan ever…

He was retired. But can football animals like him ever retire? “I had my fill of club coaching. It’s very intense. And when you coached Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern and Man United, what is left? I never seriously considered Italian or French clubs, as I strongly believe one needs to be able to communicate in detail and I don’t speak Italian or French. But I had a list. Whenever a national team on my list would become available, I would consider it. Truus (Louis’ wife) knew this.”

And The Netherlands was on the list. “Well, initially not. Because I had coached Oranje twice already and it felt like they were on a roll under Koeman. When he left for Barca, the KNVB came to talk to me but I felt it wasn’t the right time. Some players expressed their doubts about me, so I decided not to meet with the KNVB. When Frank de Boer quit and the team was already 2 points down in the World Cup qualifiers, well… I decided I’d do it, if the players would accept me.”

That was a key point for Van Gaal. The former AZ title winner wanted to speak to the key players before he’d come to the table for formal negotiations. “Everyone knows I can be rigid and stern, when it comes to rules. Off the pitch, but also on the pitch. Can they handle me. Do they want this?”

Louis van Gaal looked forward to doing his trick one more time. Despite having to come back from behind in the campaign, Van Gaal managed to win the group with Oranje, even though it had to come in the final match vs Norway.

He had done it so often. Riding the bike after practice, and then swinging his leg over the saddle, to dismount while still moving. The classic way Dutch people are learned to dismount their bike. “But this time, it was slippery. The path was wet, there were wet leaves. I did my usual swing, only to slip dramatically on the surface and I fell. Hard. And I couldn’t get up. There was some panic and two people were needed to lift me up. A small hip fracture, directing the practice sessions from a golf buggy and coaching the final game from a wheel chair. No matter, Oranje qualified.

Looking back, Louis doesn’t want pity. “I fell off my bike. It happens. There are millions of people with way more severe issues. It’s part of life. Like dying is also part of it. The older you get, the more issues you will have, physically. And you need to learn how to deal with it. And if you can’t deal with it anymore, you take the exit. Euthanasia, yes. I have organised that for myself already. I don’t think I fear death, at least… not now. But I might, once it comes closer, I guess.”

Van Gaal’s death is probably still a way ahead in time. He feels fit. Top fit, despite the hip issue. “I am so looking forward to the World Cup. It will be amazing. Despite the fact it is in Qatar, which is a problem. All these deaths and accidents with the labourers there, it’s terrible. But despite this, I still look forward to it. I don’t think player and coaches should be used to make waves about this. That is lazy. I think the FIFA, the suits, the media need to address this.” But the former Bayern meister-macher realises that his name and face are more impactful than that of Gijs de Jong (who? Gijs de Jong). “What is happening and has happened there cannot be justified. It’s terribe. But I am not the man to start a movement. We might participate in a social project in Qatar, yes, but not more. It’s sad, because there are way more countries where one couldn’t play if the human rights are taken seriously. I mean, China? Turkey? Even the United States!”

The Dutch team in Qatar. We have a hungry squad, but we also lack top quality. “Maybe individually, but we need to find the solution in becoming the strongest team. Just like we did in 2014. That is a really cool process to manage and I know how to do it.” He did say he was the ideal candidate, after De Boer quit the job. Megalomaniac? “Apparently, it’s not done to say this. But I say it. You know why? Because it’s the truth!”

Ever since he started, he is enjoying himself immensely. “It’s quite simple: this is a very professional squad. I don’t think I ever worked with a group this self motivated and professional. I applaud them regularly. In 2000 and before, football was a hobby turned serious. Now, the players see it as their craft. They focus on statistics, on nutrition, on mental aspects. I am deeply impressed and being their coach is way easier than I expected. They also manage that group feel, themselves. They plan stuff, activities and are very inclusive. They have a large lounge, with multiple tv screens, they talk, they play games, they watch sports. In the olden days, I noticed some players would always find the solace of their private room. That is happening less and less.”

“Normally, I would be too old for this job. But I am fit, which is a gift. Then I see the fact I was asked back as a the second gift, but the biggest gift of them all is the mentality of this squad. Their accountability, their openness and professionalism.”

“They” say that Van Gaal has mellowed. Maybe gotten a tad more emotional. “I was always emotional. I was better at hiding it, in the past. I would focus my attention elsewhere. You could see some wet eyes, but no tears. Now, I am less focused on covering it up. I am also less agitated by the media. I mean, I still see and hear things that make me cross, but I tend to let more go. But in my vision, I am still super sharp and edgy.”

Enjoying the B-squad before Montenegro

After the unfortunate 2-2 vs Montenegro, he wasn’t angry or negative about this team. That seems like Van Gaal has indeed softened. “Well, you need to look at the circumstances. Does it work in my benefit when I scold the players publicly? And blame them? The players were all gutted. Do you want me to add to their woes? I wouldn’t have done that in my first year at Ajax, back in the early 90s. That would be bad management.”

The Norway game, the final one, was supposed to make it abundantly clear: Oranje is the best in the group. But the first half was a chore to watch. “Tactically phenomenal! That is what I told them in the break. We played ever so well in controlling the match. The only problem: we couldn’t score. The goals came in the second half, though and thus we qualified. I came in and the rules and ideas of Frank de Boer were still implemented. I wanted more clarity. The players asked for this as well. And not just the principles for on the pitch, also off the pitch. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s with tough love and discipline. For me, these values and norms are normal.”

How can you monitor that? “You can see it in all their behaviours. Will they be on time, for a session with the physio or the doctor. Or with me. My approach is and has always been the total human. I have my vision but I also look at the impact I have on players. My vision is unchanged but it has evolved, like me. I think I have become softer towards the outside world, and yes, also the media. And in real life, I hear this a lot… “Oh, I thought you were bossy and arrogant, but you’re a nice man”, hahaha. You see?”

You never cared much about what the media said… “But I do, and did. I always hear I am arrogant and dictatorial. But I’m not actually. I’m the opposite. But I do have an opinion, and I’m not stupid. In some cases, with some media, yes, I have thought “how on Earth do they come up with this drivel” but I won’t change who I am for that. I just put it aside and get on with it.”

With second wife Truus…

What are your thoughts now, regarding the Oranje system? “I will make some changes. One thing I always get, when I mentioned the 1-5-3-2 is that it is defensive. I don’t agree. But to make it easier on the media, I will from now on call it 1-3-4-3 which is the same, depending on the emphasis. It sounds more attacking.”

One of the trends he spotted is the more and more defensive tactics from teams playing against Dutch opponents. “Take Ajax in the Eredivisie. If a coach from the opposing team plays attacking and open football, he’ll lose 7-0. If the coach plays compact, Ajax gets into trouble. While Ajax has a top team with top players, but it’s hard, even for a well gelled team like Ajax. At the World Cup, it’s about winning. We will play the tactics that will give us the best odds to win. Look at our defenders! We have 5 or 6 top defenders! I rate Ake, Timber, Blind as top notch defenders too, and you can add Schuurs, Struijk, Botman and more! So why wouldn’t I use three of our top centre backs? I want my squad to play to its strength. We have world class defenders and world class midfielders. We don’t have a true Van Gaal striker (Kluivert, Lewandowski) and we lack wingers who can take on defenders inside and outside. So my choices are logical. And Berghuis, he was a key player for us. At Ajax, he plays on the 10 spot now. If he does this all year long, I might have a problem on the right wing. I don’t think a player should play on a position at a World Cup where he hasn’t played all year. And so on and on….”

Talking about Oranje’s chances at the World Cup. “We will go for the title! Of course we will. We are not going to the World Cup to be happy with a quarter final spot. We want to go all the way. It’s my biggest ambition, after everything I have won in my career. And I have demonstrated I can win trophies. We need to be aware that at the World Cup, the best team will win. Not the best individuals. How many World Cups have Messi and C Ronaldo won? Right. So we need to forge the best team. And then you need a bit of luck with your draw and you need the top guys to be fit and in form. If we can have all that, we can win it. But I am not saying we must win it. You cannot say that. For me, as a coach, it’s about two things: you have to have leadership / managerial skills and you need to understand the game. I think I have both. All the ingredients are there. Now lets hope our key ingredients: our players, will remain fit.”

Bookmark and Share


        1. ” the form players are in”. Selecting players who can provide cover up in positions which they are not playing simply can not be best given selected over players who are playing in that position are in top form. Im talking about malacia and Karsdorp here.

  1. The other thing I would like to point out is, you cant sqeeze your all the way to win a world cup. You look back at the history, the best team with good depth and starting 11 has always reign supreme. Hard luck and PKs dismissal aside. You have to look at 98 team and a team close enough to that is whats needed to win the WC. Again my projection for 2024-2026, this could happen looking at player transfers and how they will flush out the mediocrity from the current team and upgrade individual positions.

    How far could van gaal go.well maybe after the group draws and closer to selection of the team would be the right time.

  2. In transfer news, AS Monaco has sacked Coach Niko Kovac and are strongly linked with Club brugge coach Peter Clement to be his successor. If this hapoens, lang will be the first player on his wish list guranteed.

  3. Albert Stuivenberg and Pep Lijnders both getting to coach Arsenal and Liverpool’s first teams this weekend due to illness of Arteta and Klopp.

  4. Arsenal Under Stuivenberg was stunning..They played Man city off the park…Untill that foolish Redcard…Liverpool gavway their lead and bottled..i would blame Konate for his error…

  5. LVG is my favorite coach since 1994 as i started to watch Dutch NT…i had little access to watch 2002 WCQ games live..He was unlucky to face teams like portugal,Ireland who were better than iataly,Germany,spain at those times..So he was excused for @002….i hope he doesnt stick with Danjuma and gives more cahnces to Malen and Gakpo…With Malen,Gakpo,Berjwin and berghuis he cruised against Montenegro,Turkey and Norway in september…He almost faced elimination with Danjuma in november…thanks To Virgil,De vrij,De jong and Depay he made it in November…
    He will use 343 or 3412 for sure…
    ——-Virgil—–De vrij—De ligt———
    23 +2 =25

    1. For a few years now, PSV has had good groups of forwards but lacked a playmaking midfielder to get the best out of them. Veerman now gets the opportunity to be that guy. Time will tell.

  6. I would say before Ihattarren’s mess up, it was looking good both for PSV and NT but then came the string of events which just shot him down from his fast raising trajectory

    I hope he can find his feet back and probably club brugge would be good team to join now under alfred Schreuder

  7. Ferdi kadioglu Opt for Turkey

    Anyway cares about this ? Do u see a bit loss to us or “ whatever , it’s his choice “

    I still believe it’s the family pressure on these people . How could u play for a country where u never had much connection with Instead of the country who taught u play football since u were a kid

    1. It is a loss but there is nothing we could do to change it. We really can’t call him up to cap him with his performance so far. He is far from NT level.

  8. Davy Propper hands contract back to PSV and ends career. “I am not longer happy in this football culture.” I will prep a post about this. I liked him a lot as a player.

    1. Davy Propper was world class, his first touch was impeccable, excellent vision and skills…but not so fast or athletic player…i thought he (with Roben)almost got us to Wc 2018/Ec2016 where klassen/Dost failed us after getting so many chances to score.

    2. Thanks Jan, a story on Propper’s retirement would be great. I am curious as to what he means by the “no longer happy” quote. Agree with you and Tiju; there was alot to like and admire about his game and the way he went about it.

    1. Veerman will get attention more and his efforts will be given added value as he plays for the title contender PSV…who knows if he does well he can make it to WC like De guzman and wijnaldum made it for WC2014 squad…i feel we have some sort of trouble at midfeild..Gini lost his touch,rythem,Gravenberch and koopmeinners are good but they do have leakage syndrome..Donny is not playing regular…i wish he develops in to a better player..

    2. Panic stations at PSV. I think he is too light for the top but we’ll see. He’s a good baller but I am not sure about his physical strength and he might also be a tad too “streetwise” to be accepted at a higher level. He might be put in his place by more experienced players and Joey doesn’t really like that….

  9. Watched few games. Dortmund vs Eintracht. Malen started on the right and though he didnt have much luxury like when playing on the left, was always threatening with runs and delivering crosses in box for haaland and Reus. Wont be suprised if RW becomes his prefered position going onwards to acomdate reus , haaland and him on any day.

    Lammers also came of the bench around 66 and sadly didnt make much impact and also Dortmund clawed their way back after his introduction from 2-0 down to win 3-2. To be fair he did get good service either. I dont think he will thrive at Eintracht witj the way they operate. He really needs to work hard when given minutes. Was just runining laterally, Back and forward trying to link up and that was it. Had few touches inside the box but went stray.

    Piroe on the other hand had a good game vs southampton in FA Cup. Caught the highlights of this game. They lost 3-2 in extra time with him scoring smashing in a beauty from close range.

    Also watched leverkusen and Union Berlin. Bakker and Frimpong both started the game. As usually both were highly active on their respective wings especially frimpong. Bakker looked rusty and lazy in defense and had is hands full as union berlin attacked and found more space on his flank. The game finishing 2-2

  10. Yes, Simons looks like he could be something. Needs regular playing time.
    Neres to Shakthar; I assume that Ajax will use the funds to try to bring in Bergweijn.

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.