Louis van Gaal, the Manchester United manager in waiting, revealed yesterday that he rejected the chance of taking charge at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Netherlands coach will replace David Moyes and join United following this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. But Van Gaal, preparing for the friendly against Wales at the Amsterdam Arena tomorrow, admitted just how close he was to taking the Spurs job when Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed in December.
Van Gaal, speaking at the Dutch base on the outskirts of Amsterdam, said: “I came very close. Very close. As a little boy I was a fan of Tottenham Hotspur with the team of Jimmy Greaves when he was the champion.
“Jimmy Greaves was my idol. So I was very close. I was a fan of Spurs during my childhood. Those fantastic white shirts and Jimmy Greaves.”
The Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, visited Van Gaal in December, but he turned down the initial approach and then chose United over the north Londoners when Moyes was dismissed in April.
Van Gaal refused to talk about his new employment at Old Trafford as his focus lies with the Netherlands. Yet the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach did offer an insight into his management style. Van Gaal has a reputation of being a disciplinarian, but claimed he just wants to be loved by his players.
“I’m bothered about whether the players like me,” Van Gaal said. “It’s very important. I am a coach who wants a good relationship with my players. And I do everything to reach that level but sometimes it is not reachable as the players are not open-minded and don’t adapt to the norms that I put in the team.
“Most of the players [I have managed] are saying lovely things about me. There are also players who are very angry with me. Franck Ribéry, Luca Toni, Hristo Stoichkov and Rivaldo.”