- Louis van Gaal has given a fascinating look at his compelling career
- Manchester United manager starred in 90-minute documentary on MUTV
- Viewers learned 63-year-old Dutchman is a ferociously demanding boss
- With a twinkle in his eye Van Gaal also revealed that he is very flexible
Louis van Gaal has given a fascinating insight into the man behind the mask in a sometimes funny, occasionally emotional and often compelling look at his career.
The Manchester United manager and a host of current and former players including Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Xavi starred in a 90-minute documentary aired on the club’s MUTV channel on Tuesday.
Viewers learned the 63-year-old is a ferociously demanding boss but can also be the life and soul of the party – and is not without the ability to laugh at himself.
Louis van Gaal and his wife Truus van Gaal pose on the sandy beaches of Vala de Lobo in Portugal.
Van Gaal poses with his wife Truus during a dinner to celebrate Bayern Munich’s title win
With a twinkle in his eye Van Gaal also revealed that he is very flexible, before adding ‘and my wife knows this!’
The show, Louis van Gaal: My Life. My Philosophy, took United fans on Van Gaal’s journey from kicking a football around Amsterdam as the youngest of a family of nine to proudly striding out at the Theatre of Dreams.
In typically bold fashion he relayed tales of his youth, claiming that after a couple of years of street football he was already better than his brothers.
Dutch forward Robin van Persie hats with coach Van Gaal during a training session at the Rotterdam Stadium
Then AZ Alkmaar boss Van Gaal looks on in angst ahead of a Uefa cup knock-out match with Newcastle
But a self-deprecating side of Van Gaal rarely seen was evident when he spoke about his own playing career and acknowledged he was not good enough to succeed at his beloved Ajax.
‘I was a slow player so I had to think very quickly,’ he explained.
‘That’s why I developed a tactical level that suits me now as a trainer coach.’
Van Gaal spoke at length about his fabled philosophy and, in good news for United supporters, revealed that his players now understood it.
‘I attack in four phases and I defend in four phases and I think the players know everything about the philosophy but now they have to perform,’ he said.
The Dutchman also compared United’s struggle to adapt to his playing style with his own attempts to adapt to the English roads.
Van Gaal shakes hands with Wayne Rooney after the victory against rivals at Anfield in the Premier League
Van Gaal arrives for World Cup match between Brazil and the Netherlands at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia
‘It’s like somebody coming to England like Louis van Gaal who has to drive with the steering at the other side,’ he said.
‘You have to learn that. I could have forced many accidents but I was fortunate I didn’t do that. I was lucky but it was always going better so I don’t have to warn people in my neighbourhood!’
The programme was not without its sombre moments.
In 1994 Van Gaal, a family man, lost his first wife Fernanda to cancer while he was Ajax manager.
‘That year, when my wife died, was very difficult for me because I had two young daughters and was manager of the club,’ he said.
AZ coach Van Gaal reacts during the match between AZ Alkmaar and Newcastle United at the DSB stadium
‘My daughters were 15 and 18. You have to restructure your life. I have to say I had very great support off my daughters and that’s why I could continue being manager of Ajax.’
He added: ‘The championship (they won later that season) was a tribute for my wife.’
Ajax legend Ronald de Boer, who was in Van Gaal’s team, gave a heartwarming insight into the support the well-liked manager had in the dressing room.
‘I remember the day like yesterday,’ he said. ‘He told us he would not be able to coach every session because he had to be with his wife. He was so emotional and I remember the goalie Stanley Menzo came to Louis and gave him the first hug. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.’
Van Gaal shakes hands with England striker Rooney after Manchester United’s game against Liverpool
Van Gaal acknowledges the Manchester United fans after the disappointing defeat to Arsenal at Old Trafford
Simon Mignolet denies Rooney a goal from the penalty spot at Anfield, but it was in vain as United won
De Boer and a host of other players to have served under Van Gaal also gave revealing glimpses of his training methods.
‘He has a road map in front of you and he tells you which direction he wants you to go,’ he said.
Current United stars Rooney and Van Persie agreed.
Van Persie, who has a long relationship with his compatriot, said: ‘To play for him you have to be really fit. What he asks from players is not what other coaches ask from other players.
‘He can be emotional and that’s what I like. Everyone can have a good day or a bad day and he’s no different.’
Rooney added: ‘I think he is someone you can trust. That’s a really good quality.’
Barcelona legends Xavi and Andres Iniesta both hailed Van Gaal’s impact at the Nou Camp to where he moved from Ajax in 1997.
Van Gaal returns to the bench during the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Argentina
‘He pushed me into the first team at 17,’ said Xavi.
‘He helped me so much through that difficult journey. In my opinion he did not get the credit he deserved at Barcelona.
‘He was a coach who was ahead of his time.’
Van Gaal said he enjoyed his time in Catalonia.
‘It was a warm club like Manchester,’ he said.
‘It had a family culture also. We were champions the first two years, great years. The years we were there were the first three years with my present wife (Truus).
With another smile he added: ‘They were also a little bit like honeymoon years. That was also nice.’
Friends and players from Bayern Munich revealed Van Gaal was exceptionally popular with the ladies of Bavaria.
One explained: ‘With men sometimes he is fighting but with ladies Louis van Gaal is playing the violin.’
Van Gaal chats with Jose Mourinho prior to the match between Munich and Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena
A former press officer added: ‘We had a party in the town (following a title victory). He is a party monster – it was the Louis van Gaal show.’
More praise came from those now working with Van Gaal in Manchester.
‘He always says if you ever want to speak to him about anything you can,’ said Rooney. ‘His door is always open. He’s 100 per cent serious (about that). You can speak to him about things other than football and he’s a really nice guy.’
As for his own thoughts on United, Van Gaal was equally impressed.
‘The first feeling I had was especially after 11 matches when we had 13 points and I came in the stadium and I thought the fans shall not be pleased,’ he said.
‘The fans rose and clapped me when I entered. Now I see the greatness of the club.’
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