Louis van Gaal: ‘Players don’t like him and want to kill him’ says Manchester City's Ferran Soriano

Soriano acknowledged in speech that the Dutchman did “win”, but insisted that an ability to listen and understand players – rather than authoritarianism and “character” - is needed to succeed in football management

Manchester City chief executive, Ferran Soriano, has described Louis van Gaal, the prime candidate to replace David Moyes at Old Trafford, as a manager who players “don’t like” and who they want to “kill” when the team starts to lose.

Soriano told a business leadership conference in Abu Dhabi that Van Gaal, who anticipates becoming United’s manager by next week – possibly Wednesday - had a management style that was “difficult”.

Though Soriano acknowledged that the Dutchman did “win”, he insisted that an ability to listen and understand players – rather than authoritarianism and “character” - is needed to succeed in football management. The Spaniard sacked Roberto Mancini last year because the same high-handed management style was destroying the team spirit at the Etihad.

Van Gaal’s fiery relationships at clubs have contributed to him spending a short time at each – two years at Bayern Munich and three years at Barcelona – with a second, unhappy half-season spell in 2002-03 coinciding with Soriano’s arrival as vice-president at the Nou Camp.

Though United face a difficult task finding a role which keeps interim manager Ryan Giggs happy in the new manager’s set-up, one positive outlook for him is that Van Gaal does not tend to hang around for long in one place. After two years working for the Dutchman, he could have the full managerial experience which has excluded him from contention to replace Moyes.

In his conference speech, made in March but which came to light on today, Soriano said: “If you treat your people bad, they remember. One day you make an error and they kill you. I’ve seen this in many clubs. Louis van Gaal has been a very good coach in many clubs but his style is very difficult. The same thing happened to him in Barcelona as in Bayern Munich.

“He is very tough, people don’t like him, but he wins. And one day you don’t win – and when you don’t win, everybody that is angry with you will come back to you and try to kill you. In the movies this works, in real life it doesn’t.

Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, has written a book on how to be a good leader Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, has written a book on how to be a good leader (Getty Images)
“One thing I have learned in football is that leadership is a very difficult thing. You need to choose your leadership style based on what your team needs, not your character. This is counter-intuitive. People think a good leader is someone with character. I say a good leader is someone who can listen to the team, understand the kind of leadership a team needs and apply it.”

Soriano was speaking six weeks before the sacking of Moyes but he has been candid in his views about Van Gaal in the past. In his 2009 management book, Soriano discussed the Dutchman’s “usual shouts in his well-known direct style” and quotes an experienced Barcelona player who said he “didn’t listen to Van Gaal much, although he did yell a lot. But when Frank Rijkaard [Van Gaal’s successor] comes into the dressing room I always listen to him because I see the three stars he wears on his shoulders. He has won the Champions League three times and I have never done it... so I listen to him.”

The line between authority and empathy is not a straightforward one: Soriano sacked Rijkaard and installed Pep Guardiola because the Dutchman had allowed his players to be fractionally less committed in the 2006-07 season. But Manuel Pellegrini has been hired at the Etihad because he understood players where Mancini did not. “Before you decide how to manage your team, decide what they need,” Soriano told the conference. “Do you need to be more direct? Do you need to delegate more? Do you need to be more of a coach? Are you able to manage people? How good are you? How much do you know about your job? How can you be a leader if you don’t manage people well and don’t know what you are talking about?”

Many would say these comments make sense. In his book, Soriano described Van Gaal as “an interesting example”. He stated: “He has won titles with different teams, big and small, and he’s thought to have little empathy and social skills.

“I couldn’t help but smile when I heard Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich’s technical director, explain why Van Gaal wouldn’t continue to coach the Bavarian team: ‘Van Gaal doesn’t listen. It has to be whatever he said.’ It seems his reputation is justified.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee