The Dutchman had just finished what he regards as his best managerial fulfillment: “Winning a trophy no matter having a noose round my neck for six months.”
Within minutes of the final whistle of Manchester United’s victory with 10 men towards Crystal Palace, it turned into stated he would be sacked and replaced by way of Jose Mourinho.
I met Van Gaal in Portugal remaining week for his first written interview with a British journalist because that day.
He seemed properly, energised and now unfastened from the stresses of over four decades in professional soccer. The preceding week he had confirmed his retirement.
Over the route of a charming 90 minutes, Van Gaal, now 67, changed into his common charismatic self. He laughed – lots. When he had a specific point to make he could attain out and deliver my leg a push, to make sure I became paying attention. If I stated some thing he disagreed with, he would lean lower back, scoff and disregard the observation with a wave.
Every so often he would end a solution with a query that demanded a response to the particular point he had made. He asked, more than as soon as, for me to tidy up his sentences due to the fact his English “isn’t always so top.” He broke off the interview to pose for a picture with a fan, however no longer earlier than asking me if it becomes OK — Van Gaal locations great importance on attention to an element in his non-public relationships.
It turned into clean the manner of his exit from Manchester United still rankles. To get to the crux of his resentment, wind again to the spring of 2014.
United have been looking to select their manner out of the catastrophe created via the selection to hire David Moyes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor.
They wanted someone with a tune file of achievement who could no longer be crushed by using the job. Van Gaal outfitted the bill. Moreover, he turned into to be had as his contract with the Netherlands might expire after the World Cup. Tottenham was additionally interested. However United’s pulling electricity changed into persuasive.
“Tottenham was a better selection because Manchester United have been an old crew and I knew I might rework them,” Van Gaal says. “Was it the wrong choice? Maybe, but I observe my heart. I labored at the primary team within the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and now also in England.”
Van Gaal wanted a two-year settlement. It might take him to the summer time of 2016 and fulfill a pledge he made to his mom throughout his younger days that he could retire when he became 65. United desired him to dedicate for three.
He says: “The Glazers [the club’s owners] and Ed Woodward [executive vice-chairman] requested me. That is why I am nevertheless indignant with the way they selected to do it. Ed Woodward knew Manchester United could be my ultimate membership.”
Van Gaal becomes additionally aware of restoring the membership to its former glories become now not going to be a fast method.
“They had seven players over 30,” he says. “We spoke about that on the activity interview. In my first yr, we certified for the Champions League. In my second we received the FA Cup.”
On 21 November in that second season, United won 2-1 at Watford. They have been 2d inside the Premier League, a point behind eventual champions Leicester. Their next five games yielded two factors in a disastrous period throughout which they were additionally eliminated from the Champions League.
As supporter disenchantment with perceived poor football grew, Van Gaal’s role as manager got here underneath increasing scrutiny. Without Van Gaal’s expertise, contact was made with Mourinho. To nowadays, United are adamant no process offer turned into made. Alternative resources from outdoor Old Trafford stated. Otherwise, the media ran with it, and Van Gaal discovered himself in an impossible state of affairs.
“I can believe Woodward chooses Mourinho,” says Van Gaal. “He is a pinnacle train. He has gained quite a few titles — more than me.
“What I don’t like is Woodward contacting my successor, knowing in his mind he’s going to update me and he continues his mouth shut for six months. Every Friday I needed to move into press conferences and be asked what I concept about the rumors. What does that do to the authority of the instruct?
“To win the FA Cup while, for six months, the media has a noose around my neck, is my most significant achievement.
“I spoke to Woodward the day after that recreation. His argument turned into that I became simplest going to be there for one more 12 months, and Mourinho would be there for three, 4 or 5. I recognize he hired a private aircraft to get me back to Portugal, but his arguments were not accurate sufficient.”
Van Gaal gets lively when the bad view of his soccer is mentioned.
“It isn’t always true,” he argues. “You say it became boring. Why changed into it dull? Maybe it turned into boring-attacking however that becomes because the opponent parked the bus. Then you have to play at a higher pace, that is difficult. Then you have to see what kind of gamers you have got.
“Wayne Rooney needs to had been the number 10 however Robin van Persie becomes no longer in shape sufficient for the Premier League, which supposed Rooney changed into the nice striker we had. But Manchester United wishes the first-rate striker inside the global.”
He attempted to cope with the hassle.
In came to Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Huge names at a big cost.
The first two lasted a single season, Schweinsteiger made four appearances in his second before shifting to Major League Soccer in March 2017.
Di Maria recently blamed Van Gaal for his United failure due to the fact he picked him in the incorrect positions.
“Di Maria says it became my hassle. I performed him in each attacking role. You can check that. He in no way satisfied me in any of these positions. He couldn’t address the continuous pressure on the ball inside the Premier League. That was his problem,” says Van Gaal.
“I introduced Schweinsteiger in because we wished a captain at the pitch. He did not do it. He became injured. He had an excuse.
“I desired a great striker. I don’t need to go through all of the names but while you can not have the primary or second choice, you need to be happy with the fourth or fifth, so Falcao came into the photo, but we knew in advance he became injured. That is why I stated we must take him on loan.”
Throughout our communication, Van Gaal returns to a theme.
The media has the energy to influence; however, they achieve this on a restrained amount of statistics. As an example he explains how Ajax had been lucky to overcome Real Madrid inside the Champions League in advance this month and why, despite dropping on the Amsterdam Arena, they had been a great deal higher at home within the first leg than they have been within the second, which is considered one of the fantastic contemporary-day performances via a Dutch crew.
“The media do now not examine the sport,” he says. “They examine the result.”
Which brings us to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“People think we’ve got best had fake information because Donald Trump has become president. In football we’ve got had it for fifty years,” says Van Gaal.
“The instruct after me [Mourinho] changed to park-the-bus approaches and played at the counter. Now there is every other educate who parks the bus and plays at the counter. The primary difference between Mourinho and Solskjaer is that Solskjaer is winning.
“I am not there but there does look to be a change, and the ecosystem appears to be higher. It is likewise true that Solskjaer has modified Paul Pogba’s position and put him into an area where he’s plenty greater important.
“But the way Manchester United are playing now isn’t always the way Ferguson performed. It is shielding, counter-attacking football. If you want it, you like it. If you believe you studied it’s miles greater exciting than my dull attacking, OK. But it isn’t always my fact.
“Solskjaer has simply lost twice, and he has to control that. It could be very crucial that Manchester United qualifies for the Champions League, as it changed into once I changed into the manager. But they can also win the Champions League due to the fact they play a protective device, and it is very hard to beat them, which, whether or not you want it or no longer, is the result of Mourinho’s paintings.”
The preceding day Van Gaal gave a speech to a League Managers’ Association meeting, and he stays hugely sensitive to the problems all managers face.
He has reviews, lots of them, but at no factor, either on or off the report is crucial of all people who put themselves ahead for the process. Although he has observed how speedy considered one of his primary critics decided he had himself taken an incorrect circulate recently, 31 days after his appointment through Oldham.
“Paul Scholes became a manager too, sure?” he smiles. “Fantastic, eh. Fantastic.”
Van Gaal is amused at “being retired by way of the media” as he says his current comments handiest repeated something he stated first in 2012. He additionally famous he acquired two job offers a month after leaving United. Not all of them have been brushed off out of hand.
“They have been from the best stage,” he says. “Not too much from England but a lot in Germany, Spain, USA, Mexico, Argentina. I had big doubts twice. I requested my wife, Taurus. However, she said no. The last one became Feyenoord. She desired to do that due to the fact she is a Feyenoord fan, but I am a regular man.”
There is a public belief of Van Gaal that he enjoys being the center of interest. He says that is misplaced. How long, he asks, have I been asking him for an interview?
The solution is ready as soon as a month because of his United exit. If he turned into addicted to attention, he argues, why could he wait for goodbye?
“Everybody thinks I am a narcissist. I am the alternative of that,” he chuckles.
“The media likes me because I supply sincere solutions. How many humans in football deliver sincere answers? I do not lie. Always the truth. OK, perhaps my fact. But it is the truth.”
In the aftermath of Mourinho’s go out, United resources said certainly the appointment of a technical director turned into on the schedule, in addition to a brand new manager.
At present, not anything has changed from Van Gaal’s time, with Woodward in average charge and Matt Judge, who has a masters diploma in economics and finance and 13 years’ enjoy in funding banking, negotiating prices and contracts. United are adamant their priority is the soccer aspect and success on the pitch is the goal for everybody on the club. Van Gaal does now not agree.
“At the moment there may be a shape with a scouting department and above this is someone at Woodward’s right hand. The structure isn’t always so terrible however the right-hand needs to be a technical director with a football view, no longer somebody with a banker’s position,” Van Gaal says.
“Unfortunately, we are talking approximately an industrial club, not a soccer membership. I spoke to Ferguson approximately this, and in his ultimate years, he also had troubles with it.”
If there is one aspect of Van Gaal’s illustrious profession for which he may be remembered, past the trophies, it is the number of younger gamers he picked.
Van Gaal gave debuts to Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thomas Muller, all now mounted names at soccer’s highest level. There are many, many extra, which includes Marcus Rashford from his time at United.
He says: “I study something from Mourinho announcing I best did that out of necessity. Not true. I created the obligation.
“Manchester United had over 30 players. I brought them to lower back to 23. Then I had an open choice for the youth academy. I did that at every club. That is why some young players have made their debuts with me.
“A lot of running shoes, like Mourinho, never provide youngsters a risk. Yes, five minutes. Solskjaer, 10 minutes. That isn’t always a threat. A chance is a recreation.
“Too an awful lot enjoy isn’t precise. Then you’ve got an automated pilot. You continuously want creativeness and also you can not forget how inspiring younger players can be.
“If you aren’t inclined to trust young players, you are not suitable to be a supervisor of membership with a adolescents education.”
But the journey to the pinnacle is not entirely to do with potential.
“Your character is likewise very vital. In my time, Rashford changed into very modest, and I thought he could reach the better level,” Van Gaal says.
“I knew players with the highest capacity to kick a ball from A to B but as an individual, no. Then you could forget it.”
There are eight teams left within the Champions League. Van Gaal managed 3 of them – Ajax, Barcelona, and United. He knows United lovers especially might be irritated at his desired final results.
“People think Barcelona are the great; however they are no longer. Manchester City and Liverpool are greater of a group than Barcelona – and Liverpool are greater of a team than City,” he says.
“In my philosophy, the best group shall win; however I desire for City due to the fact they play the great soccer.”
After forty-six years, Van Gaal’s active career in football is over. Now he’s growing “my future,” with his wife, his kids, and grandchildren. A house pass at the Algarve is nearing its very last tiers.
Pushed to evaluate his legacy, Van Gaal well-known shows a softer side, which, he feels, is a more accurate mirrored image of the man he is.
“I have a philosophy. I was convinced of it, and by way of triumphing trophies in 4 international locations, I proved the philosophy worked,” he says.
“But my legacy is more significant than just my effects. I am also a family members train, no longer only with my players however all and sundry in a club.
“It is not my picture, but I am very human in that way. At Manchester United, there had been more than 40 people inside the performance branch. The clinical department, the enthusiasts. They all had a coronary heart for the club. I went to paintings as an analyst at a recreation at Liverpool, and the United fanatics had been nonetheless shouting my name.