Manchester United players should adapt easily to the Louis van Gaal ethos, says Edwin van der Sar

You are working in the Premier League so you would expect you have all those attributes

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The Independent Football

Manchester United’s players ought to be capable of adapting immediately to the fast, technical Dutch football that Louis van Gaal is submitting them to, the manager’s former Ajax goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has said.

Van Gaal’s personal demands led another of his ex-Ajax charges, Dennis Bergkamp, to suggest last year that only young players with something to prove could ultimately put up with the Dutchman. But the former United goalkeeper has told The Independent that Van Gaal is “the best coach I’ve had” and said elite players still wanted to learn from a manager’s teaching.

 “I don’t know [that English players would need time to adapt to Van Gaal’s technical ethos],” Van der Sar said as United prepared for tonight’s visit to West Bromwich Albion with only Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans and the suspended Wayne Rooney of the regular first-team squad still unavailable and Phil Jones and Ander Herrera probably back in the starting line-up.

“You would think you should have that already. You are playing in the Premier League so you would expect you have all those attributes. Sometimes you will have a different philosophy and it will need a little time to resolve.”


In his autobiography Stillness and Speed, Bergkamp – who is in the Ajax executive management team with Van der Sar – charted the deterioration in his relationship with Van Gaal, which was positive when Ajax were a young team hanging on his every word but negative when he craved more individualism. “We were young and keen to learn, but if we’d been together for five years, I don’t think Van Gaal’s fanatical approach would have worked,” Bergkamp wrote. “His forte is working with young players who still have everything to prove and with teams who still have everything to win. It’s tougher for him when his players are less obedient…”

Van der Sar, who is now Ajax marketing director, insisted that the more experienced players could work with Van Gaal, citing the willingness of Ajax’s former players to rekindle their relationship with him when he became Dutch national manager in 2000 after his initial glory at Barcelona had fizzled out. That period ultimately proved unsuccessful for Van Gaal, when he failed to take the Netherlands to the 2002 World Cup.

“We all had him when we were young with Ajax and then we had him again with the Dutch national team seven or eight years later,” Van der Sar said. “But he still wanted to make us better there. You expect the best national team players can [already] do something [special] but he was still trying to form us, as he had seven or eight years earlier.”

Van der Sar also gave an insight into the way each Ajax match was analysed in immense detail by Van Gaal, who gave him his Ajax debut after ruthlessly dropping the experienced goalkeeper Stanley Menzo, whose mistakes had cost Ajax a UEFA Cup tie against Auxerre.

“There was an indoor area. Every Monday morning after the weekend of a game you have half an hour and you know for yourself exactly what you did wrong,” Van der Sar said. “As a player, you know that. You just hope as a player he didn’t see it but even for the goalkeepers he [saw things]. “It was, ‘Van der Sar! A ball like that was not that hard! How can that go in the far corner? You were much too close to the near post!’.

“He knew he was right. It wasn’t a highlights package [we went through]. That was 25 years ago, we hardly had video! It was all in his notebook! A different time, of course. His eye for detail is immense.”