A host of national newspapers have been kind enough to provide us with ‘the real story behind Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United reign’. Compared to ‘a headmaster’ by more than one outlet, stories of hard-boiled eggs, budget Holiday Inns, email trackers and plenty more has emerged in the aftermath of recent reports over his Old Trafford spell. Here are the best bits.
* As reported by many, Van Gaal would encourage players to take a touch before shooting. Martin Samuel writes, in his Daily Mail column:
‘One of Van Gaal’s orders, among the many ways he has stifled one of the most attractive football clubs in the world, is that strikers take a touch in the penalty area before shooting.’
* Dubbed an ‘elaborate system to email his players with tactical videos’ by Neil Ashton of The Sun, it has emerged that Van Gaal would send his squad analytical videos and have the clips tagged with a program that informed him for how long the message had been open. In the words of The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor:
‘He started sending the players individual emails detailing their faults and submitting video clips to highlight his dissatisfaction. Except by that stage a lot of the players were so disillusioned many ignored the emails or redirected them straight to their trash. Van Gaal suspected as much and had a tracker fitted so he could check if the emails were opened and for how long. It became a game of cat and mouse. Some players opened the emails on their mobiles, then left their phones on the side and wandered off for 20 minutes.’
‘It reached the point where many players regarded international breaks as a welcome break and the chance to play in a relaxed atmosphere away from a manager they never fully understood and who, to borrow one description, was thought of as “weird”.’
* On one player particularly confused by Van Gaal’s decisions, Taylor adds: ‘Ashley Young…was bemused and mildly horrified earlier this year to be informed he was being given a new role as a back-up centre-forward.’
Really, Ashley? ‘Mildly horrified‘?
* On the first pre-season under Van Gaal’s tutelage in summer 2014, Taylor writes:
‘The players privately blamed his pre-season arrangements on tour in Los Angeles for feeling like a five-star prison camp, with double training sessions, various meetings and an evening supper (a piece of toast) taking up every day from 8.30am to 10.30pm.’
Mark Ogden of The Independent writes:
‘Having inherited United’s summer tour of the United States from [former manager, David] Moyes, Van Gaal was so angered by the arrangements in place – the Beverly Hills location of the team’s Los Angeles hotel in relation to the training camp and venue for the game against LA Galaxy – that a budget Holiday Inn was hired for the players to sleep close to the training ground in between morning and afternoon sessions.’
* Ogden adds, of summer purchase Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has not started for the club since January due to a knee injury:
‘Van Gaal is blamed by some players for allowing Schweinsteiger to ‘take the piss’ since his injury, with the former Bayern Munich midfielder’s regular absence from the club in between games becoming a source of annoyance to many.’
* Welcome back Ashton of The Sun, who writes, on the disappointing Memphis Depay:
‘Stroppy United star Memphis Depay is also being alienated from the dressing room because of his behaviour.
‘Last Thursday, when he realised he would not be in the final squad, he threw his boots against the wall of the dressing room.’
Scumbag. Still, at least he didn’t drive a fancy car to train…
‘He also ignored the dressing room when he was advised not to turn up to an Under-21 game in his Rolls-Royce.’
* And finally, Van Gaal is blamed for Matteo Darmian’s deficiencies in the kitchen. According to Ashton:
‘In lighter moments, there was also widespread amusement when Matteo Darmian admitted he did not know how to boil eggs.
‘As the Italian full-back left training one day, he asked the club’s chef to hard boil two eggs for him because he thought he might be hungry when he got home.’