11 August 2014 16:04
From the moment he was appointed Manchester United boss, it was clear Louis van Gaal would be doing things differently to his predecessor.
His first words told their own story: “This club has big ambitions; I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.”
It was a bold declaration, one that was a welcome move away from the usual ‘media speak’ that accompanies such statements.
Most striking, though, was how greatly Van Gaal’s words differed from those often uttered by the beleaguered – some would say hapless – man he replaced.
Indeed, when David Moyes first spoke to the press upon his introduction, he had this to say: “I’m inexperienced in a lot of things and there were some brilliant managers who could have quite easily taken this role but the biggest confidence I got was that Sir Alex Ferguson said to me ‘you’re the next Manchester United manager’.
“I hope we play the same way, with the same traditions and entertaining, exciting football.”
While ‘hope’ was not in the vocabulary of Ferguson, Moyes was forgiven; he was new after all.
Yet those comments proved the first of many missteps. From the repeated suggestions United were ‘trying to improve’, to the claim that Liverpool were favourites ahead of their Premier League meeting at Old Trafford.
Anointed ‘The Chosen One’ upon his arrival, it quickly became apparent Moyes was not ‘The Right One’ as United’s season crumbled to new lows on a weekly basis.
In fact, as weeks turned to months and fans increasingly began to gaze at Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho with longing eyes, that infamous banner may as well have read ‘Not The Special One’.
Banners aside, United clearly realised Moyes did not have the character for such a job.
He was someone who openly admitted to being nervous about going to Ferguson’s house in jeans on the day he was told the top job would be his.
By contrast, Pep Guardiola reportedly told the Barcelona hierarchy they “did not have the balls” to appoint him back in 2008.
In that case, it turned out they did, his recruitment heralding the richest period of success in the club’s history.
But Moyes was no Guardiola, no Mourinho, no Ferguson. And he was no Van Gaal.
Indeed, in the new man, United have almost appointed the anti-Moyes.
A 63-year-old who has seemingly never experienced self-doubt, he once famously claimed “Louis van Gaal has nothing more to learn”.
And who can blame him? While Moyes had done an admirable job at Everton, albeit one that is diminished by the day as Roberto Martinez improves upon his work, Van Gaal has an almost unrivalled CV.
Having managed Ajax’s young guns to an unlikely European Cup win in the early nineties, he has won titles at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and, remarkably, AZ Alkmaar.
His efforts at the recent World Cup, when taking an unheralded Netherlands squad to a third-placed finish, suggest that Van Gaal remains at the top of his game too.
Whether or not he fulfils the promise of making history remains to be seen.
However, unlike Moyes, he walks through the door with complete confidence in his ability to do so.