Yesterday was a day of reflection for United boss Louis van Gaal. In an extensive interview with MUTV, the Dutchman reviewed his first season at the club. With high highs and low lows it was an interesting year of football, recognised by Van Gaal. What has impressed a lot of fans is the fight that players have shown on the pitch, unlike what we saw under David Moyes last season. The new manager has made a big influence already, with his flamboyant personality and ruthless coaching. He is a leader who shows passion, and isn’t afraid to make his opinions heard (as we all saw at the Player of the Year night).
So where has the popularity come from? United’s ability to inflict damage on big teams has undoubtably played a part. When questioned on the performance against Liverpool, Van Gaal said “I could feel it in the stadium and on the streets because people were so happy and crazy! I have scored a lot of credit with that victory.” With every big game played, it seemed as though the team had something extra in the tank. United’s traditional fast paced flair returned and so did the victories. The manager went on to say he thought “our best match […] was against Tottenham” in which the Reds won 3-0 back in March. I’d have agreed with him but the following match against Manchester City was special, “it was also amazing because we were behind and we won 4-2 – it shows again the spirit in our team.” This win streak against big teams was definitely the highlight of the campaign for me, providing fans with renewed hope after shock defeats to Leicester and MK Dons.
When it comes to away days, it appears that Louis is not so impressed with Premier League facilities, joking that he has had to sit on the toilet at times due to the lack of space. However, the same could not be said for fans and their passion for the sport. “The way football lives in the minds of the people here is unbelievable. It is what I expected coming here and it’s fantastic to be here in England. Fans live football. Football is living and living is football here. That is not the case in Germany, in Spain it’s a little bit more like that, but not in Germany. It is fantastic to see.”
It was a big talking point early in the season, but Van Gaal’s decision to give Wayne Rooney the captain’s armband has turned out to be a superb one. “He is always setting an example for the other players and maybe Wayne is the example for the team’s fighting spirit.” What Van Gaal failed to mention, however, is the fact that Rooney lost his effectiveness when playing in midfield. As the man leading from the front he was consistently one of our best players throughout the year, and appeared to show new life after being named captain.
During the interview, Van Gaal was asked for his thoughts on United’s return to European football, again answering with a grounded understanding of the current team’s ability: “First we have to qualify because we have to play two matches to [enter the group stages of] the Champions League. […] It is a stressful period so I hope we succeed but still we have to be aware that it is not a piece of cake.” This is a realistic response from the manager and it is good to see that he is already thinking about the games ahead.
“I want to win titles for the fans but also for myself. The biggest challenge is what your ambition is, and my ambition is to win titles. It is not easy, everybody knows that and we shall fight till the end and I will give everything in me to build a team as champions.” If there is one main thing to take away from this interview, it is this statement of intent. It’s a simple message with a clear aim; Van Gaal has drive, and United have to challenge for the title. So let us look forward to next season and continue to support the manager who constantly keeps us guessing and hopefully keeps on impressing.
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