I saw a headline on the BBC today and it read ‘Roy Keane has had “an informal chat” with Celtic’s majority shareholder about becoming the club’s new manager.’ It reminded me about the number of ex- Manchester United players who are currently coaching and what could some of the team of 99 do for Van Gaal. The team that won the champions League during the tail end of the 1998/99 season made themselves United legends that night. They beat the odds to claim the top club trophy anywhere the world.
But what of the team that won the trophy? Could they help Van Gaal get that Man United spirit back in both the dressing room and importantly on the pitch? Talking of veterans and United legends, the new manager has quickly put Ryan Giggs to work which was a shrewd move for them both. Van Gaal gets all the experience that comes with a veteran player of Giggs’ calibre, however, and some would say more importantly, this one act will get the fans on his side immediately.
Managers have their preferred coaches and often will bring a small entourage of coaching staff with them to their new club. Usually they share a common language and culture, a home from home perhaps.
Sometime ago, I remember talking to a first team coach who said the key to success (whilst in the big leagues) was to hire a coach for each third of the pitch. As well as the obligatory goalkeeping coach he enthused about the merits of employing a dedicated defensive coach, a midfield coach and a striking coach. If you remember, Wales brought in Liverpool legend Ian Rush to specifically coach their strikers, although that’s probably not a great example as the Welsh strikers were firing blanks for a few years.
That said, there is little chance Van Gaal could convince Mark Hughes to quit the Stoke Job to coach his attacking starlets. Nor, for that matter, could he prize away Steve Bruce who is currently enjoying life with the FA Cup finalists Hull City (or Hull Tigers if they can make their mind up).
So, what of the champions League winners from the 1998/99 season? Who could Van Gaal bring in to return some of that Manchester United swagger, pride and steel? What of the likes of Garry Neville (Currently working as an England coach), David Beckham (free agent swanning about Miami trying to set up an MLS franchise), Andy Cole (First team coach at Huddersfield FC), Jaap Stam (Currently assistant coach at Ajax), Nicky Butt (Working as Red Devils reserve team manager), Denis Irwin (Occupied as a presenter for MUTV) or Peter Schmeichel (Sporadic TV Pundit).
However, it’s worth noting that great and successful players are no guarantee of great managers. Alan Shearer leaps to mind, however, the list of great players who failed to make the step up to manger is a long one.
Van Gaal will certainly know what he is doing. But where David Moyes went wrong was forgetting the high esteem much of the Manchester United faithful have for their former players. Let’s not even mention Eric Cantona! Now, If Van Gaal could get him on the team then the fans would be delighted, however, Cantona is more famous now for his media work than his footballing philosophy. That said, as a motivational speaker few would inspire more.
Van Gaal could do lot a worse than bring in a couple of United legends to help coach specific areas of the team and bring some much needed steel. Despite Roy Keane’s acrimonious exit from the club and a few less than glamorous forays into management he could still be a formidable force on the training field. Few players would argue with Keane dishing out the instructions.
That said, I am sure Van Gaal knows his stuff better than I but United need some legends and they are not currently playing on the first team and it shows. Maybe some of the old guard in new roles could inspire the first teamers to remember who they play for.