Van Gaal tries to focus on Dutch effort as Manchester United questions abound
Netherlands national coach Louis van Gaal (centre) leads a training session of the Dutch national team in Hoenderloo, the Netherlands. Photograph: Koen Van Weel/EPA
At the Netherlands’ World Cup training camp Louis van Gaal is a man alone. The focus of the media circus that has descended on Hoenderloo’s Golden Tulip Victoria hotel, is a 62-year-old who balks at discussing becoming the successor to David Moyes as Manchester United’s manager.
While Van Gaal wants to discuss his squad’s tilt at Brazil 2014 all anyone else wants to hear are his thoughts on the job awaiting him if and when the Dutch are eliminated from the tournament.
After a training session with his Netherlands-based players in the hotel grounds, Van Gaal’s press conference is a breezy affair during which when questioned about United only the odd morsel is offered.
As the Premier League side worked furiously all day and into the night on the final details of Van Gaal’s appointment in the hope this might finally be announced , the Dutchman was pressed about what would be the fifth club of a glittering management career.
“You should ask Manchester United, ” offered the former Ajax, Barcelona, AZ and Bayern Munich coach. “I’m not going to speak about Manchester United. I am speaking about the Dutch national team only. Last week I said four-and-half sentences and it made 60 pages.”
As Moyes discovered during his dismal tenure, the light shone on the United manager is directed to all corners of the globe in a fashion that even being a title-winner at all of those previous clubs can hardly prepare Van Gaal for.
Wednesday is a blank day for Van Gaal and his Netherlands players. Asked whether he might make a flying visit to Old Trafford to be introduced, he said: “Ask Manchester, I don’t know. Now there will be press sitting outside my house to see what I’m doing. I said a few words last week about Manchester United because there were uninvited English journalists here and I thought it would be a little mean-spirited if I did not answer a few of their questions.
“I mumbled a few words to them and from that they write 60 full pages. But you can’t do anything about it.”
While Van Gaal stated then he would “love the job” of being manager, when questions are finally permitted about Manchester United one should concern the expected acquisition of Luke Shaw. The Guardian understands Southampton’s left back is being bought without the approval of Van Gaal, so to hear how this squares with the martinet manager of repute could be revealing.
In the morning Van Gaal was last on to the training pitch holding a stopwatch and with whistle in mouth, the mode of the PE teacher he once was still retained.
After his players were split into pairs and tied to each other with a bungee-type lead to test each other’s resistance, Van Gaal watched a practice match that included the former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, now of Fenerbahce, and Chelsea’s Marco van Ginkel.
Robin van Persie arrives to join the squad he captains. Van Gaal offered his clearest sign yet the man he appointed as his leader last summer may also be handed the United armband.
Van Gaal’s default formation is 4-3-3 yet he has consulted Van Persie on potentially switching to a 3-5-2.
“I discussed changing the formation with Robin as I talk about these matters with my captain,” he said.
Wayne Rooney had been in line to be the next captain under Moyes’ management. How he might feel about Van Persie in the role is only one of the myriad subplots that will intrigue when United finally have their new man in place.
– Guardian Service