Van Gaal Expert On RVP Future At Man Utd, LVG v Cruyff
How much did Van Gaal’s failure in his first stint with the Dutch team fire him on to make amends with the rest of his career?
It hurt him very much, because he is not loved. He has got problems with Koeman, Cruyff, Hiddink; three very important people in football. They loved it a little bit (his failure), behind his back, after he did such a great job with building up Ajax again in the 90s.
It was amazing. I don't think it's possible any more for a team in a small country to win the Champions League, but he did it and that's how he made a name for himself. That's how he started building up a good CV. After a couple of years he did the national team and everything went wrong.
Was that his first major setback after Ajax and his first stint at Barcelona?
The national team came and it was a disaster. I remember Rivaldo saying, “He's jealous of me because I won the World Cup he didn't qualify for.” So that must have hurt him, and what struck him the most was that the players, the ones that he worked with (at Ajax) in '95, didn't cooperate.
Players were interested in going out, and you know what happens when players go out, it goes wrong. He couldn't work with that kind of mentality. In his autobiography, he said he despises that way of living.
He didn't click with the players. If things are going well there is a click between the players and the coach. And often they are young, because young players you can still influence them. But he did very well with Robben and van Persie in the last World Cup. And the younger players, they thought with his philosophy and they fit in and he literally helped them. That is what he will do at Manchester United if he is given time.
Excelsior are van Persie's team in the Holland. He's said he'd like to play there again before he retires.
There is a stand there with his name on it at Excelsior stadium. When he's 36 or 37, I think he will.
Will he go straight there from United or will there be a club in between?
I think there is probably a club in-between, in France or Italy.
There's a lot of talk in England that he may be in terminal decline. What do you think about that?
I think it's ridiculous. In Holland, there was also a lot of discussion that he failed during the World Cup. Do you know how much he scored? Four goals. You cannot say you've had a bad World Cup. His play isn't spectacular, but he is efficient.
Have Ajax always been Van Gaal’s club?
Yes. Ajax is his club. After that it's Sparta. He started at Ajax as a youth player. He was playing for an amateur club, and then picked at 16 or 17 years of age, but then Johan Cruyff was the main centre-forward, and he was playing out of position because he was a very good player with heading. He just played one match for the first team of Ajax because Cruyff wasn't there.
How would you compare van Gaal and Cruyff as managers?
Totally different. Cruyff did it all on intuition. Van Gaal is doing it as a theoretical coach. Romario once played at Barcelona. Cruyff said to him: “Don't do that. Don't walk so much. Don't run so much. Don't sprint so much. You lose the strength to score.” That's what Cruyff said to him, but Louis van Gaal would recommend to defend a little bit more. That's the way they're different to each other.
Who is more total when it comes to their total football?
Cruyff stopped in '96, almost 20 years ago. I would have to chose Louis van Gaal, because the game has developed so much in the last five to 10 years and he knows everything about it. He is fully focussed in life and in football. He is the modern manager, although he is 64.
Where do you think he would rank his greatest team against other great team from the history like Guardiola's Barcelona, Sacchi's Milan and Ferguson's United?
Above them, because he could build Ajax quite slow. He started in '91, immediately won the UEFA Cup in '92. Then he built it out to the Champions League. That's a process of four or five years. In '96 he even became a finalist again. He knows that such a thing takes five or six years to build. That's not possible any more.
Does he try to place himself in history like that?
He knows that he made history with Ajax. That was very special. But he must also know that two years at Bayern Munich is not enough to be remembered as the founding father. He likes it that we say he built Bayern Munich in the beginning and Guardiola finished it, but he is propagandising.
Where would you rank him in the list of the best ever Dutch managers?
On top. He thinks Rinus Michels is better - he thinks Cruyff worse - because Michels was the first. He was a pioneer, because the Dutch wasn't anything at all. We didn't win anything. And with Rinus Michels, '71, '72', '73 with Ajax, and of course the national team with beautiful football.
That is so extraordinary to come out of nothing. After that, Rinus Michels won the European Championship in '88. It was ugly football. There wasn't anything in the aesthetics at all. So if I compare them, I think Louis van Gaal achieved a little bit more than Rinus Michels.
Van Gaal is very good at saying he is the best, but is Michels the only man he looks up to?
He said in his own biography that he didn't like how the teams of Guus Hiddink played. His allergic reaction to Johan Cruyff is famous. And what did Cruyff do next to Barcelona? He didn't become a champion with Ajax. He was there three or four years. He got second in the league. So he is better. Louis van Gaal is absolutely better than them. Before Michels. Hiddink above Cruyff. That's the order.
Someone once said he invented the modern game...
He likes that very much! He likes to hear that. If you ever meet him, just say it to him, and he will say: [puts on van Gaal voice] “You have got good knowledge about football!”