I quoted a Dutch journalist, Peter Zantingh, in the piece I wrote for The National, Abu Dhabi on Louis van Gaal – the image above is copyright of “>John de Grooth and used with his consent – , but formed an instant dislike of him.
Zantingh has written an open letter, only semi-lighthearted, addressed to sportswriters who will cover van Gaal’s progress in his new job in charge of Manchester United. “From this moment on, you will be patronised, looked at with disdain, and haunted by a constant doubt [whether Mr van Gaal is making fun of you or being deadly serious],” he warns them.
His 10 golden rules for dealing with van Gaal appear here.
Most could have applied to the Fergie reign, too, but the one that annoyed me – because of the way he introduced it – was this:
“Start neutral. Begin with a question about the match just played. ‘How did your team do?’ or ‘What did you think?’ will suffice. ‘You must be very disappointed’ will not. That is because the match you saw and the match he saw can be very different ones. Mr van Gaal is perfectly comfortable declaring that a 0-3 loss at home to Sunderland was his team’s best game all season, just because his players were doing what he told them to do. It’s not always about what ends up on the scoreboard. Don’t enter the interview thinking it is.”
Or am I just losing my sense of humour?
Time is not available in abundance to the Dutchman, 63 tomorrow (Friday Aug 8), with a giant-sized ego, outlandish hairstyle – ‘he looks like a sausage wearing a wig,’ said one non-United fan at an irreverent online forum – and a macho nickname (the Iron Tulip).
Van Gaal has taken charge of one of football’s greatest clubs, a sporting institution whose fans number in scores of millions and are scattered in every country. They cannot always place Manchester on a map, but they’ve long been accustomed to winning as a way of life.
That cycle of success was broken last season, the first since the end of the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, which covered more than 26 years and yielded 38 trophies.
It leaves van Gaal in no doubt about the task ahead: restore United swiftly to the very top of English football, competing again with Europe’s elite, or be judged a failure and sent packing.
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