Louis Van Gaal: I will continue churning players to stop Manchester United going stale

Van Gaal says players who sit on the bench too long lose their hunger and need to be replaced

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The response to Pep Guardiola was unequivocal. The Bayern Munich manager had alleged that the man he called “my friend Louis” had tried to bring three of his players – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben – from the Allianz Arena to Old Trafford. However, he added that Van Gaal “did not have the money to make these transfers happen”.

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Van Gaal, who managed all three at Bayern, responded that no player he had asked to come to Manchester United had turned him down. The implication was obvious. If he wanted those three, he would back himself to get them.

“What he said is not so interesting. I think every player I have contacted wants to play for Manchester United,” said Van Gaal. “It is unbelievable that, in spite of the fact we are not playing Champions League football, the players are willing to come. It is because of the greatness of the club. They believe in the project we have started but it needs time.”


In the space of two months Van Gaal has made Manchester United his own club in a way David Moyes never managed. Moyes attempted to put his own stamp on United by removing Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff. But he signed only two players and by the time he was sacked it was still Ferguson’s team, although playing in a way the old man would have found unrecognisable.

Van Gaal’s strategy will continue beyond the January transfer window. He argued United needed a constant transfusion of new players to prevent the club becoming stale, which it unquestionably was when Ferguson stepped down. Van Gaal said he would promote players from the youth teams and keep buying to freshen up the squad.

“Youth players, when they are talented, give a lot of stimulation to a group,” he said. “You have to refresh the squad every year and I have done that at all my clubs. There is no doubt about that. When you are at a club too long, maybe you are too used to being a substitute. You always need the hunger to be in the first team.”

The vast outlay on players was something he did not attempt when taking over at Barcelona or Bayern Munich. At the Nou Camp, he was on the point of inheriting a wonderful generation of young players from the academy at La Masia that Guardiola would captain. In Munich, his priority was to alter the tactics.

At Manchester United, his brief is clear and unsubtle; to do and spend what it takes to get back into the Champions League. Nevertheless, Van Gaal has always built his sides around what he refers to as “guardians’ of the club’s values. At Barcelona, it was Guardiola, at Bayern it was Philipp Lahm, despite the fact that the full-back was initially wary of Van Gaal’s methods.

“Wayne Rooney is such a player,” said Van Gaal. “Every young player coming up is a guardian because he learns the culture of the club from the age of a child. For example, Danny Welbeck was nine years old when he first came. He rose and rose until he became a first-team player. These are the guardians of the first team.

“The Class of ’92 were guardians of the culture. It is very important that a club like Manchester United has these guardians and therefore you need a very good education. Wayne Rooney is captain and guardian of the club.

“That is very important to me. I did it with Barcelona. Maybe you know I gave a debut to Xavi, to Iniesta, to Puyol, to Valdes. I can mention Badstuber, Müller and Alaba at Bayern. I want to do that here but the youth players have to take their chance.” Since Welbeck is now an Arsenal player, it can be safely assumed Van Gaal felt he had not taken his opportunity.

But asked if he would replace a £60m footballer with a youth-team player, Van Gaal replied: “That is no problem because money doesn’t say anything. Quality says everything.”

Van Gaal knows that the applause for last Sunday’s 4-0 demolition of Queens Park Rangers was a little overdone. They had not won at Old Trafford since 1992 and were in the Championship last season.

So were Leicester City and United have not lost there in the league since 1985. But like Guus Hiddink, Van Gaal is famed for incessant note taking.

His analyst, Marcel Bout, will study Leicester’s games, give his analysis to Ryan Giggs who will present it to Van Gaal. After a discussion, Giggs will deliver a final presentation to the first team.

“I prepare all my matches very thoroughly,” said Van Gaal. “I know everything about the opposition, about individual players, about the substitutes. I know how they will take their free-kicks... everything.”

United's summer purchases

Daley Blind, £13.8 m

Born 9 March 1990 (24). Left-back or defensive midfielder. Began his career in the youth academy of his hometown club Ajax where his father Danny made his name as a professional. Dutch footballer of the year last sesaon, played for Netherlands in World Cup under United manager Louis van Gaal. Joined United on 30 August.

Ander Herrera, £29m

Born 14 August 1989 (25). Central midfielder. Began his career at Real Zaragoza before moving to his home-town club Athletic Bilbao in 2011. He was the subject of a £24m offer from United in August 2013, but the bid was rejected. Eventually signed United for £29m a year later. A Spain U-20 and U-21 international.

Angel di Maria, £59.7m

Born 14 February 1988 (26). Attacking midfielder/winger. Argentina international. Started with local club Rosario Central, moved to Benfica in 2007, earning a £15m move to Real Madrid three years later. After winning the Champions League with Real, he signed for United on 26 August for a British record fee.

Marcos Rojo, £16m

Born 20 March 1990 (24). Centre-back or left-back. Began his career at local club Estudiantes, where he won the Copa Libertadores in 2009. After a prolonged saga due to third-party ownership dispute, signed for United on a five-year deal from Sporting Lisbon. Work-permit problems delayed his debut. Argentine international.

Luke Shaw, £30m

Born 12 July 1995 (19). Left-back. A graduate of Southampton’s youth system, Shaw made his first-team debut for the club in January 2012, and signed his first professional contract in May that year before becoming a regular in the teamo. Signed by United for a world-record fee for a teenager. England international.