American Red Devil Take: Looks like Louis van Gaal’s non-disparagement clause has expired in his termination agreement because he came out swinging in an interview with Jamie Jackson over the weekend. Van Gaal is correct that the club is being run by a bunch of 4 star clowns, with Woodward acting as the incompetent henchman for the Glazers’ malfeasance, but let’s not forget some of the Dutch Dinosaur’s awful signings. This man was given more cash to splash than any Manager post Ferguson.
Van Gaal shelved the signing of Toni Kroos, after the club spent two years courting him, only to sign Morgan Schneiderlin instead for the same amount, one of the most underrated flops of the modern Man United era. Add in the additions of fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay over Premier League proven, and now UCL winner, Sade Mane, or the shipping of Sir. Alex Ferguson’s last signing in Wilfred Zaha for less than price of re-sodding the Old Trafford pitch, with no buyback clause to boot. Whether this terrible period was down to the ineptitude of Woodward, van Gaal or combination of the two is not important. The rot starts at the top and no matter what you think of van Gaal, there is much truth in his rant against his former club.
The following interview exposes some of the massive issues at this club that won’t be fixed until the Glazers finally sell.
The Guardian sat down with Louis van Gaal at Noordwijk’s Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin, three years since his dismissal by Manchester United.
Jamie Jackson: Did you feel betrayed because Manchester United wanted you to do three years and then one day after you won the FA Cup final they turned around and said goodbye?
Louis van Gaal At that moment I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed because what I hear from a lot of people is it was already done in December, January. I spoke every week with [the executive vice-chairman Ed] Woodward. After three lousy defeats in December, when we also went out of the Champions League, I have spoken with him and I said: ‘I can understand that you sack me.’ In a club like Manchester United you cannot lose three times in a row. Then he said: ‘No, never. I never shall fire you. Believe in yourself. Don’t read the papers.’ I think then you can feel betrayed but now I can better understand because he knew that the next year I would say goodbye. On the market was [José] Mourinho. He is also a very good manager and Woodward thought that he had secured for Manchester United Mourinho’s top managerial level for years.
How was your relationship with José Mourinho?
I can imagine that Mourinho wants the chair of the manager of Manchester United because it’s, in my opinion, the highest chair in England. Before I signed for Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur was here in my living room – Mr Levy. I could sign also for Tottenham Hotspur and I have said to my wife that Tottenham had the better selection [squad] than Manchester United. But I chose United for the challenge and because I have always managed the number one club in a country!
There’s no hard feelings with Mourinho?
No hard feelings.
What is the problem at Manchester United now?Advertisement
The problem begins with, of course, that Manchester United was never refreshed. I think when you are a manager you have to refresh every year to keep the team-building process going.
You brought in players. You tried to refresh.
Yes, but I didn’t always get the players that I want. That’s the problem. There is Woodward and his right hand is [head of corporate development] Matt Judge. Judge I met once in a while but not too much. And there was the head of scouting. That was the structure but you are always dependent on Woodward and Judge.
Did they not take your advice?
I thought always Manchester United can buy every player because they have a lot of power. Seemingly a few players were not reachable for Manchester United. I cannot understand but it was like that.
Ángel Di María, was he your choice?
Di María was my choice at AZ, seven years before.
He didn’t sign then. Did you want him for United? Were you happy that he came?
I was satisfied, because he was a creative player, but I had other players on the list. Di María had a problem with the English football culture and the climate. You cannot buy players and know, for sure, that they can deliver. You cannot know because football is a team sport.
Where did he want to play?
I always ask a player where he wants to play. For him it was wing, wide and mostly left. In the Argentina team he plays on the left. I started with him there. He was not performing that well, to a level you could expect from an £80m player. I believe, then, I have to see if another position is better for him. I have played him left winger, as the 10, second striker and on the right. Then the critics say he is having to play in too many positions. I gave him all the chances that there were to perform well.
Do you have any regrets about your time with Manchester United?
No. The way they sacked me was terrible. But I like my time in England, because of the culture, because of the people. A lot of humour and always supporting the manager. I have respect for everybody I worked with.
Who was the best player you had there?
I think [David] de Gea has done fantastically.
OK, outfield player.
This is significant that I have to think a lot. [Luke] Shaw was starting very well but he was kicked out [badly injured] by PSV. Shaw was above average. [Ander] Herrera was above average. He started not so well but he became more important for the team because of his inspiring behaviour and coaching qualities. I think that overall Daley Blind was my most consistent player with high qualities for building up the play. [Juan] Mata was also a quality player with a lot of creativity and I was very happy with him because we had a big lack of creative players. That’s why we played that, in your eyes, “boring football”. We did not have too many creative players to increase the tempo of the ball and to use more vertical passes. But it was better than parking the bus, I think.
We played there [points to the opposition half]. We were mostly always better than our opponents, but, when your opponent is parking the bus, you need creative players. That’s why I allowed Di María and [Memphis] Depay to come because they were creative players and I think a team needs at least three or four creative players to break down those opponents.
You haven’t mentioned Wayne Rooney. Was he too old by then?
I’m sorry but he was over the hill. But in spite of that he was one of my best players.