The match [July 23rd, 2014] is a ‘meaningless’ friendly in Los Angeles. Or is it so meaningless?
Van Gaal arrives as manager at Manchester United Football Club after managing Holland in the recent World Cup in Brazil. He joins a club suffering a severe dip in performance following the departure of the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson, who is widely credited with the record-breaking successes of the club in recent decades.
In the recent World Cup, Van Gaal reinforced his reputation as a tough but creative manager. For example, he came up with the incredible and pre-planned decision to substitute his first choice-goal keeper in extra time to bring on one better able to win the imminent penalty shoot-out.
First impressions at MUFC
Within days of Holland’s departures from the World Cup, the new manager arrives at Manchester. There followed a few days of intense image management, reinforcing his image as a dominating personality who expects to get his own way on as many matters as possible.
In this, MUFC fans largely approved, as it was a style for which Alex Ferguson was recognized and feared.
Within a week, the squad had left for the pre-season tour of North America, de Gaal grumbling about excessive traveling which was a disruption to pre-season preparations. He said such arrangements would not happen again on his watch.
Reconstruction of the club
On de Gaal’s arrival, funds were released by the owners and board to strengthen the club. New players were acquired.
The LA Galaxy game
The first pre-season game was against LA Galaxy, a club with prior connections with MUFC, through the recently-retired David Beckham. The match was switched to the Pasadena Rose-bowl to accommodate the interest it attracted. A near-capacity 86,000 fans watched the match.
The American team, half-way through its season was expected to be match fit. This did not make much difference in the first half. United, playing a new attacking formation, were lively and effective, scoring three unanswered goals.
The new manager had made it clear he would be assessing all players before completing his summer transfers. At half-time, as agreed for the fixture, large numbers of changes were made in each team. The United squad players brought on were more successful than their Galaxy counterparts,and scored a further four goals unanswered.
The Van Gaal managerial regime could hardly have started better.
The new manager has a direct – some would say brutal – style which seems designs to overwhelm all opposing views. His history of success with his teams has been accompanied with confrontations with players and with influential figures in clubs he worked in. He wins respect and makes enemies. The style can be found in many business and sporting leaders. In his encounters with the press, the style does have resemblance to that of Sir Alex Ferguson who could be famously (or infamously) combative.
There is something vaguely Machiavellian in the public persona which may be designed to rule through fear rather than being judged weak.