Patrick Kluivert shattered Ireland's Euro '96 dream – but says they can spring a surprise

Former Dutch star says Memphis Depay may be distracted at van Gaal’s United

Patrick Kluivert remembers both of his goals which crushed Ireland's hopes of making it to Euro 1996 as though he scored them yesterday.

For the first Clarence Seedorf slides in Edgar Davids, who cuts the ball back to a 19-year-old Kluivert to sweep the ball effortlessly past Alan Kelly in front of the Anfield Kop.

The second was a touch of genius, Kluivert dinking the ball over a helpless Kelly from the penalty spot and securing a play-off victory for Holland.

The youngest ever goalscorer in a European Cup final for the victorious Ajax side of 1995, Kluivert was established as one of the best centre forwards in the world when the Dutch bombed at those Euros amidst rumours of financial and racial disputes among the squad.

At the centre of Holland's very public implosion was captain Danny Blind. Now manager of the Oranje, Blind's side recently failed to qualify for Euro 2016 – just two years since they reached the World Cup semi-finals under Louis van Gaal.

Kluivert was van Gaal’s assistant manager during that tournament, and he blames a lack of change within the Dutch set-up for their alarming regression.

He said: “From the World Cup in 2014 until now nothing has really changed. You have the same players and now you can see other countries are getting stronger as well. And Holland let it happen.”

Kluivert is about to resume his role as the manager of Curaçao – the Dutch Caribbean island where his mother was born – and he is one of a number of Holland’s golden generation now coaching.

Ajax alone have Frank de Boer, manager since 2010, Edwin van der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud van Nistelrooy all involved in their coaching set-up. Is this reintegration of former heroes something Kluivert feels is vital to the rebuilding of Dutch football?

“Yes, I think so. Because you can explain your experiences to players, and you can also warn them what sort of situations they will face. And I think that is super important, that players who played at a high level have the responsibility for a certain team.”

Number two

Kluivert was eager to work with van Gaal when he took over at Manchester United only for van Gaal to pick Ryan Giggs as his number two for what has thus far been an uninspiring tenure.

And why have things gone so wrong for his former mentor at Old Trafford?

Kluivert said: “That’s a good question. I don’t know why because he had the budget to bring in the players that he wanted, but unfortunately the players haven’t performed as they normally do.

“But also in the Premier League you have a lot of good teams, and it’s not just that they are playing badly, but also that the other teams are smelling they can win or draw against Manchester United.

“And the pressure is always on Manchester United. Maybe the players are slightly too young to cope under the pressure, but if he had more time I think that would heal the wounds.”

Big step

One young player who has struggled since arrival from PSV Eindhoven last summer is Memphis Depay, who has attracted the ire of some supporters for a number of flashy social media posts despite his poor performances. Kluivert flourished as a teenager under van Gaal, but Depay has yet to show the form which saw him guide PSV to the league title last year.

Kluivert suggests the 21-year-old has been distracted since his move to Manchester, he said: “In the beginning he was great. But it is a big step, you’re coming from a competition where he was the star for PSV and now he is among bigger players.

“I know Memphis very well, and he wants to succeed so very bad, but he has to focus on getting in the first 11 and performing well every day in training and in matches. If he is doing that he will be playing and scoring a lot of goals.”

Some 20 years on from shattering Irish dreams with that brilliant brace, Kluivert feels Martin O’Neill’s side have it in them to spring a surprise at this year’s Euros despite being drawn with Belgium, Italy and Sweden.

“Sure, Ireland have a chance because all eyes are on the other countries. Nobody is expecting Ireland to get through their group.

“But that means Ireland can prepare and if they lose it is okay because they’ve been beaten by a better team. But you can play free, without any pressure and then you can achieve something.”

Patrick Kluivert was speaking at an event organised by Doritos and Pepsi Max

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