There are now just three games and four teams left. The end of this magnificent World Cup is in sight and while I can’t quite bring myself to contemplate a post-tournament world, the completed semi-final line-up pits four true international heavyweights against each other, each with a very real chance of claiming the ultimate prize.
The last team to secure their semi-final place was Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands, and once again the incoming Manchester United manager played an integral part in the victory.
Van Gaal had stolen the headlines in the second round when he received plaudits for a late, bold substituition in the game with Mexico. With fifteen minutes to go, Robin van Persie was withdrawn and replaced by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. At the time of the switch, the Netherlands were losing 1-0. They went on to win 2-1 with Huntelaar slotting home the winning penalty with seconds left on the clock.
Against Costa Rica, van Gaal was at it again. Seconds before the end of extra-time, the Netherlands boss brought on Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul to replace Jasper Cillessen ahead of the penalty shoot-out. Krul saved two Costa Rican penalties and made himself a hero, vindicating Van Gaal’s surprising decision in the process.
These two decisions seem to sum up Louis van Gaal perfectly. He’s evidently a man that knows his own mind and isn’t shy about backing himself or taking tough choices on the biggest stage. He’s a single-minded and confident manager who isn’t worried about ruffling a few feathers.
These characteristics will sound familiar to Manchester United fans, and with the Old Trafford club hoping that Van Gaal will be the man to steer them back to the summit of the domestic game, it shouldn’t come as a great shock that the Dutchman boasts many of the same characteristics of Sir Alex Ferguson. Like Ferguson, Van Gaal is a larger than life manager, so how will he be received when he takes over at one of England’s biggest cubs?
Despite his reputation as being egotistical and confrontational, Van Gaal arrives with an excellent track record and experience of managing at the top level and it’s for this reason that most will be looking forward to his presence in England. Having managed Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Dutch national team, among others, Van Gaal has enjoyed a career at the top of the game, dealing with some of the biggest names in world of football and it is these achievements that will afford him something of a free pass when it comes to his idiosyncrasies.
After David Moyes suffered from a seeming lack of respect from his United charges, it’s unlikely that the same fate will befall Van Gaal.
He’s had a number of public disagreements with some of his players, but the majority of evidence points to him being a hugely respected coach. He’s also known for his meticulous preparation and attention to detail, ensuring he and his team are ready for every conceivable situation. In short, he’s hard working, experienced, bold, fearless and 100% confident in his ability to deliver.
He’s good and he knows it, so how will the fiercely partisan football fans of England react to the enigmatic Dutchman? Well, I for one am looking forward to him being a part of the Premier League. Unlike other ego-driven managers that have graced these shores, Louis van Gaal has a wealth of experience to point to. His CV is impressive, and by the end of the World Cup it could be enhanced further still.
When you’ve done what Louis van Gaal has done in the game, you earn the right to let your personality shine through and I think the majority of supporters will have at the very least a grudging respect for him. Until of course yet another tactical masterstroke sees him get one over on your team…
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