So, the worst kept secret in professional football has finally been revealed and Louis Van Gaal is the new Manchester United manager. Well, he certainly has the credentials for the job; he has won the Dutch league with Ajax, La Liga with Barcelona, the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, a hat full of cups, the UEFA Cup, The Champions League and a coach of the year award! I don’t think anyone can question the man’s credentials for the job. Not like his predecessor who lacked all of the above, his nearest award being manager of the month once or twice.
Van Gaal will impose himself on the team from day one, however, as with any new manager he will encounter two major problem and both revolve around who will he select for his first eleven.
Firstly, some names pick themselves but what if you have two equally capable full backs, for example. Who takes precedent? Is it the most expensive player? Or, perhaps it is the one who best fits into a 4-4-2 formation? That said, none of this matters if one of them is the record signing you made for £12Million during your first week in the job (you have to play the player you bought… don’t you?).
Let’s not forget the famous and gigantic egos, who has the biggest self-image or (more importantly) who will complain the loudest on twitter when not selected for the first team.
Also, player’s aside, there are the fans and they have their own expectations. What will their reaction be to your first team sheet? Do they have a preference for a fullback in that position? Whatever you decide, and decide you must, if you win your game then the fans reaction will be a positive one, however, if you draw or lose the game then your decisions will be savaged and pulled apart in every pub across the land and by former players on television. What’s worse, the man you replaced as manager will be on television telling everyone who will listen where you got it wrong.
It’s not easy being a football manager at the best of times. That said they are well paid for the job they do, they do volunteer for it, they may not have job security but they get paid a hell of a lot and should they get fired for failing to meet boardroom targets they even get a substantial payoff. How many of us have that luxury?
Imagine for a moment, if you can, being in charge of a team of young, over paid, celebrity egomaniacs all of whom get paid much, much more than you do and are considered to be a bigger asset to the club than you are.
As the manager, how can you effectively discipline a player if the club consider the player to be of bigger value than you? Does anyone remember the whole Tevez debacle at Manchester City when he refused to play? Who looked daft then? Did Tevez look daft or did the manager who was impotent in his ability to effectively discipline the player because he was deemed bigger (cash value) than the manager. A £100,000 fine is drop in the ocean to these high profile players, their agents fleece them more than that for negotiating the opening of a packet of crisps.
If I go back to my previous example of a pricey full back; if I want to send my £12 Million defender on loan to a team in the lower leagues for a month or two to teach him a lesson (okay it is an extreme example), I will struggle. The club are very unlikely to sanction that move because of the huge financial asset the player is to the club, especially if you then want to buy another one to replace him. Not to mention the fact that his value would plummet playing for, let’s say, Accrington Stanley (no disrespect to the fine boys at the Crown Ground).
The second major issue facing Van Gaal will be that which has faced football manager’s across the globe since time immemorial. What if you have a player, nice guy, but he does not fit into your system of play? In the lower leagues managers are expected to work with the players they have got and coach improvements into the player’s game, however, this can take time. Big club managers have little time to undertake such frivolous things and so tend to buy a new player (usually more expensive than the one you already have) who will allegedly fit into you preferred system of play.
So, it’s clear that managing a big club like Manchester United is a major juggling act but if anyone can keep his balls in the air (stop giggling at the back) it would appear to be Van Gaal. He will have two crucial decisions to make when he starts at the club. Firstly, who to play in his first eleven and secondly who does not fit into his system of play and needs replacing. He certainly has the experience to make these big decisions without Sir Alex holding his hand. However, let’s not forget, despite his outstanding record, Van Gaal has been fired from some of his managerial jobs so David Moyes should take heart, a new job will be around the corner. Bristol Rovers are looking for a new manager I believe.