London - While the Manchester United squad continue to put in the hard yards ordered by Louis van Gaal, their new manager is clocking up air miles as he works on the next chapter of his distinguished career.
Van Gaal flew back on Sunday with the Holland squad after leading them to third place at the World Cup. He will spend just two days at home before starting work in Manchester, and another 48 hours in England before United fly to California to start their US tour.
Van Gaal’s stock appears to have risen in Brazil, where he became the first Holland coach to go unbeaten in 90 minutes and extra-time at a World Cup.
However, the thoughts of the 62-year-old have already turned to his next assignment and the United players have been adhering to his training instructions in his absence. The players were put through two double sessions during their first week back and were then called in for a Sunday workout.
‘I don’t need a holiday,’ said Van Gaal. ‘It’s great to have such an exciting challenge. To work daily with young people is something I don’t need time off to rest for. I’ve only met two people from the daily management, the chief scout and the chief executive officer. And two of the owners. It’s time I got to know more people. I will do my best. Whether that’s enough for the fans, I will wait and see, but I hope that will be the case.’
Van Gaal has been credited with bringing unity to a Holland set-up that, historically, has not provided the most harmonious of environments. After a 5-1 win over Spain in the opening game, Holland finished top of Group B and beat Mexico then Costa Rica, on penalties, before losing a shootout to Argentina in the semi-final.
Now Van Gaal wants to create a similar spirit at United following a calamitous season under David Moyes. One of the first tasks will be to address the relationship between Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Rooney was set to inherit the captaincy from Nemanja Vidic, but Van Persie’s role as Holland skipper and his close relationship with the coach suggests that he is now a leading contender.
‘There will always be a place in my heart for these 23 players,’ said Van Gaal. ‘I hope the group in Manchester will become like this one.’
But Van Gaal’s attempts to persuade Arjen Robben to join him seem to have been unsuccessful. ‘I have a special bond with Van Gaal, he is the most important coach in my career,’ said Robben. ‘(Moving to United) is not an option, though. I will stay at Bayern Munich.’