The Netherlands face Argentina in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, a match which promises to be one of the clashes of the tournament.
The 2010 finalists were not considered one of the pre-Cup favourites, although Argentina are living up to the hope that this could be Lionel Messi’s tournament.
While the Dutch have always had good players, their pool of talent is naturally limited by the nation’s size.
Boss Louis van Gaal, who joins Manchester United immediately after the World Cup, has been credited with maximising their ability with some brilliant tactical and motivational decisions, such as replacing goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul seconds before the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica.
That contrasts with some concerns fans made about Van Gaal when he was appointed before the finals – was he from a different era, too divisive and controlling for modern players? So I spoke to Manchester United fans out here for the World Cup, and the resounding view now is ‘no – he’s a genius’.
“I am loving what I am seeing in Brazil,” Pete, from Manchester, said. “He’s got his ideas, tricks up his sleeve, and is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers.
“I am especially buoyed by the 5-3-2 system he deploys, I think it would be a huge success at United.
“It is the sort of revolutionary move we need to rid ourselves of the remnants of a disastrous Moyes era, and look to the future.”
Kam, from Middleton in Greater Manchester but living down south for the last two years, agreed.
“I think the new regime will be amazing!” he enthused.
“Watching the Dutch team play reminded me of United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“The future looks bright!”
Pete pointed out that Van Gaal has managed to secure signings more effectively than David Moyes, despite being in the latter stages of a World Cup in Brazil.
“He's already done better in the transfer window than his predecessor, and he is on the other side of the world.
“Robin van Persie seems rejuvenated too under a man he clearly respects, so I’m expecting big things next season.”
Nimit, who lives in Dubai, feels this ability to seal transfer deals will only improve after he returns, with Van Gaal’s already strong reputation managing to improve.
“After last season, everyone knew we had to get a manager that excites not just the players at United - but also potential signings.
“In Van Gaal, we have exactly that. Any doubts that fans had have been dispelled by a managerial masterclass at the World Cup.
“He has the got the best out of a squad, that by his own admission, isn't at the same level as years past.”
So what for the future? United had a dreadful campaign under Moyes, failing to qualify for Europe and flopping in Cup competitions.
Can they challenge for the title under Van Gaal? Or do United fans need to be patient as the former Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Ajax and AZ Alkmaar boss rebuilds a squad shorn of confidence?
“I genuinely believe that we will improve tenfold next season,” Pete added. “We won't win the league just yet, but this is a rebuild job that Van Gaal will relish.
“He’s been fantastic to watch in press conferences too. Reminds me of a certain someone...”
Nimit sounded a word of caution, pointing out that Van Gaal’s age – he turns 63 when the new season starts – and that Ryan Giggs need to be given responsibility, fast, if he is to be the long-term solution.
“The only consideration is that LvG is always a short-term solution. If the plan is to have Giggs learning under his leadership, and take over at the end of his three-year contract, then he needs to be a big part of the day-to-day running of the team.
“It's key to creating a smooth succession, and hopefully another era of great success.”
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