Louis van Gaal dropped the heaviest hint yet that he will appoint compatriot Robin van Persie as captain when he takes over at Manchester United, claiming the pair have a similar outlook on life.
The Holland manager has grown close to the striker, who captains his country, and is set to favour him over Wayne Rooney for the skipper’s armband at Old Trafford. Rooney had looked certain to be made permanent captain under David Moyes.
Van Gaal rarely singles his players out but he gushed about Van Persie after the 30-year-old scored a superb goal in Holland’s 1-1 World Cup warm-up draw with Ecuador.
Van Persie was out injured for six weeks towards the end of United’s disappointing season after suffering a knee injury in their Champions League victory over Olympiacos in March.
‘Even coming from a bad injury, he scores a fantastic, unbelievable goal, just brilliant,’ said Van Gaal about the striker’s 37th-minute equaliser at the Amsterdam ArenA on Saturday.
Van Persie is not 100 per cent fit, according to Van Gaal, but looked sharp as he sprinted to meet a superb pass from Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie. He controlled the ball with his chest before volleying past the baseball cap-wearing keeper Maximo Banguera.
‘I was happy with his performance, but he is also a fantastic captain — and that is important, too,’ said Van Gaal. ‘I think you always make a player captain when you have the same morals and philosophy as they do.
‘Not only about football and tactics and what is happening on the pitch but about life as well.
‘We click and I think that’s very important. I believe that Van Persie and Van Gaal share the same philosophy.’
Van Gaal is expected to be announced as the next Manchester United manager today, his final rest day before Holland’s World Cup preparation camp begins.
He will inherit a squad of players at Old Trafford in which he has had no say but will take the decision of appointing a captain very seriously. He has spoken in the past about the need for him to ‘click with’ and ‘admire’ his chosen leader on the pitch and Van Persie fits that profile most obviously.
‘He is my captain,’ Van Gaal said simply. ‘He’s my top scorer in the one-and-a-half years that he has played under me for the national side. He became all-time top scorer of the Dutch team and he plays superb football.’
It took just nine minutes for Ecuador to go into the lead on Saturday, as striker Jefferson Montero latched on to a pinpoint pass by Felipe Caicedo before coolly converting past the helpless keeper Jasper Cillessen.
Holland, who were missing star names Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben, face sterner opposition in Brazil in the ‘group of death’ with Spain, Chile and Australia.
If they come second in the group, Holland will most likely meet the hosts in the round of 16. – Daily Mail