Louis van Gaal gets tough with Manchester United players, with Darren Fletcher and Luke Shaw berated in public and Phil Jones left looking bemused

New manager chastises players for missing the target during a shooting drill whilst defenders are commended for finding the target


Louis van Gaal last night revealed what a demanding Manchester United manager he will be, publicly berating players including Darren Fletcher and Luke Shaw in his first training session, after renewing his attack on the players’ commercial duties which he says are affecting pre-season preparations.

Van Gaal’s first open training session here, ahead of his first game as United manager against LA Galaxy in the early hours of Thursday morning provided a revealing insight into his management methods.

He challenged players for missing the target or firing too close to the goalkeeper during a shooting drill in which they were first forced to shoot continually with their left foot, then with their right. Fletcher took a particularly loud rebuke for missing the target and Shaw’s seemed to be for putting the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs - when the Dutchman seemed to want it placed to his right or left. There was no menace in the rebukes but it was a chastening experience for new signing Shaw, who had declared before the session that “with the new gaffer, you have to impress in training and that is what I am looking to do.”

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The Dutchman leapt into a high ten with both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling when they scored in the drill, with the accompanying words “you’re a defender” an indication that he did not expect defenders to shoot accurately. Jones looked slightly bemused by the whole experience and Jonny Evans was clearly disappointed, in the circumstances, to fire over the bar – though he escaped a dressing down.

Phil Jones in training with Manchester United Phil Jones in training with Manchester United  

The drill demonstrated the way in which van Gaal will stretch his players technically, with only Danny Welbeck threatening the goal during the left-footed shooting period. He hit the bar. Wayne Rooney was lively. The would-be captain shouted “left, left” to teammates, when there was initial confusion about which foot they should shoot with.

The players have reason to believe they have a champion in Van Gaal, though, with the Dutchman claiming last night that he had won his battle for a shorter pre-season tour next season.

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He arrived late for his first United pre-match press conference here after a near two-hour rush hour slog and declared that United were “having to adapt to my new rules” on limiting sponsor duties. United chief executive Ed Woodward insisted on Tuesday that players were way below the minimum six-hour weekly commercial commitments laid out in Premier League contracts. But van Gaal was clearly unhappy about the way sponsors are impinging on what will become an 18-day tour if United reach the final of the International Champions Cup in Miami, a week on Monday.


Asked if there was a conflict of interests, van Gaal replied: “More or less. We have to prepare the season and when you have commercial activities and dreadful distances, having to fly a lot and the jet lag, it is not very positive for a good preparation. The tour was already arranged and I shall adapt and United will do everything to adapt to my new rules.”

He said that next summer’s tour would be shorter, despite the opportunity it creates to drives the club’s global revenues. “Yes, I hope that (it will be shorter),” he said. “But they have already said that to me and I am very confident that it shall be.”

Van Gaal cut an intense figure in the late Califoria evening, standing arms folded even to study his players run through sprints. He is testing and assessing them all and he offered no assurances that Javier Hernandez would resurrect his United career under new management, as United prepared to welcome back the Mexico World Cup player last night. “We have to see,” he said. “It is the same answer that I give, but I have to see what I can from him. I will meet him and we shall train. He will perform in a match and after that I can talk about him.”

Luke Shaw in training with Manchester United Luke Shaw in training with Manchester United  

Shaw, who will replace Patrice Evra as the first-choice left-back, said: “I don’t feel any pressure to come in for Evra, he has been great for the club for 10 years, so hopefully I can carry that on.”

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