Tim Sherwood on World Cup 2014: Louis van Gaal will find it tough jumping straight from a World Cup into the Premier League
Dutchman will take up his role as Manchester United manager straight after
Friday 04 July 2014
If Louis Van Gaal was to take the Netherlands to the World Cup final and win it, he would barely have time to parade the trophy back home until he is due to go away with Manchester United on their pre-season tour to the United States. United play Los Angeles Galaxy on 23 July and they will want to get some time in on the training pitch with their new manager before then.
The Premier League is an all-consuming competition to manage in. To my mind it is the most competitive league in the world and for all Van Gaal’s experience, and all his success, he has never been there before. There is no time off in December and January as he has been used to in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany. There will be little time to acclimatise and get to know his squad. He cannot afford to miss one day of pre-season.
For a top manager like Van Gaal and a club the size of United, there is no breathing space. He goes straight from a World Cup, which continues today with the quarter-final against Costa Rica, to a pre-season with United. He will know that a good pre-season is essential to get to know his squad and to integrate his new players. He will know he cannot afford to waste any time spent with them. Then the new season begins and United fans want the best. They will expect to win the league.
In the modern day, the biggest clubs go on big pre-season tours to the United States or to Asia. As managers you have to accept that it is part and parcel of the job. If a club wants to fork out the big money on transfer fees and salaries then commercial tours are part of earning that money.
As for the Premier League itself, it is unpredictable, even for a manager as experienced as Van Gaal. An understatement, but it is not an easy league to win. Every manager needs a pre-season to get to know his squad, and learn its strengths and weaknesses. So there will be no respite for Van Gaal as he goes from an exhausting World Cup finals straight into the build-up to the Premier League season.
Ideally you want to have the squad as near to complete when pre-season starts. United have signed Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, which is a start. Last season, Tottenham made their signings in decent time but they still had Gareth Bale hanging around to the very end. Dimitar Berbatov went on the last day of the summer window in 2008. It is not always productive to have players sold at the last minute.
Liverpool are getting their business done quickly. They completed the deal for Emre Can this week plus they already have Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert which gives Brendan Rodgers the chance to work with them immediately. It does not look like they are messing about with Luis Suarez either. That is how a manager likes it. If the decision is to let a player go, then get the deal done. Don’t hold out until the last day for the very last pound.
Once Van Gaal is into the season, there is very little respite – although he will not have the pressure of mid-week European football. At Spurs last season I found that the games came thick fast. The stress of it was a shock at first but you get used to it. I liked the fact that I did not have long to stew on a bad result. Just as you could not be too pleased with yourself after a win. The pre-season is so important. It is when you lay down the foundation for the season. I picked up a Spurs team that was on the slide midway through the season and I had to change the mindset of how we played. We needed to score more goals and I had to change the tactics accordingly. It took some time but we got there in the end.
As a manager you need some time when you can be alone with your thoughts and try to solve the problems you are facing. I would run on the treadmill in the gym at the training ground and that was my time when I relaxed and turned things over. A lot of managers told me that they did that in the drive into the training ground. For some of them it was a four-hour round journey but it was there that they got all their thinking done and made their phone calls.
You have to be in regular contact with the chairman, and there are always agents on offering players. At Spurs I made sure that I was watching a lot of under-16s, youth teams and under-21s. I would try to get to other games in the Premier League if I could. Or I would watch a game on a DVD. It was non-stop. But I loved it.
When you are that worn out at the end of the day there is no problem going to sleep. The problem comes if you wake up, because there is so much on your mind you can’t drop off again. It’s always the case that the manager cares more than the players. It has always been that way.
United will be keen to support Van Gaal as much as they can. The history around a lot of the big foreign managers who have come into the Premier League in recent years is that they get big transfer funds to spend. United want to succeed and they have already spent well over £50m. That’s where it was hard for Pepe Mel, who took over at West Bromwich Albion in mid-season with no knowledge of the Premier League. He came into a club where there was never going to be the funds and the battle for survival was hard.
I will be interested to see how Van Gaal uses his new assistant Ryan Giggs. Ryan should not be there to put the cones out. He can’t be that man. They will have to use him properly in the training session. He should not be a dog’s body, not with everything he has achieved in his time at United. He knows the club better than anyone. He knows the Premier League and English football well.
In many leagues in Europe, the big teams can go to the smaller clubs and win at a canter. You cannot do that in the Premier League. Every club, big or small, presents a challenge. Ryan will be able to help Van Gaal a great deal. He knows the league, he knows the players. He knows the challenges that certain clubs will present. That will be vital for Van Gaal as he is new to English football.
Ryan can also learn from the new manager and in time he could be taking sessions himself. There is nothing worse than standing there on the side of the pitch, doing nothing. Why have people there if they are going to be redundant? Why have coaches who are just there because they are the manager’s mates? They have to be contributing something.
I wouldn’t want to work anywhere I was just reduced to the role of an observer. As a manager of a Premier League club, Van Gaal will know that there is more than enough to be done. So he will have to get the right people doing the right things. He needs to use Ryan in a role where he is contributing.
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