The Netherlands were among the rank outsiders to win the World Cup but as Louis Van Gaal prepares to say goodbye to International Football, the new Manchester United boss is threatening to sign off by giving the orange nation their first ever title.
Many would agree that the Dutch have been the most exciting team of the tournament but what can their style of play tell us about Van Gaal’s plans for Old Trafford?
The roots of Total Football
Like other Dutch coaches before him, the current Netherlands boss forges close links with the sport of field hockey. Two former hockey coaches are with Van Gaal in Brazil but he is merely following a legacy handed down by his predecessors.
It’s widely acknowledged that the breath-taking form of ‘Total Football’ had its roots in the sport and that the legendary Johan Cruyff attended many field hockey games while in charge of Ajax.
“If you look back over many years, we can say field hockey has had a big impact on the Dutch game,” said former Netherlands star Edgar Davids.
But why is hockey so important to the Dutch national team and how will it benefit Manchester United as they look to recover from the issues of last season?
Keep it on the floor!
In field hockey, a team is penalised if the ball rises above knee height so it is imperative that the game is played on the ground. That rule means that teams rely on pace across the pitch, rapid passing movements and quick, intricate dribbling. If those qualities strike a chord then you probably watched Van Gaal’s Holland use those attributes to demolish World Cup holders Spain by five goals to one in their opening match.
Expect LVG to employ those tactics when he arrives at Old Trafford: Fast and creative wing play will be central to his plans and that could mean a far more active role for Antonio Valencia who has recently put pen to paper on a new three year contract.
If United fans were concerned about the ‘Van Persie to Arsenal’ rumours that appeared towards the end of 2013-14 then those fears should have dissipated with the appointment of Louis Van Gaal. It was clear from the opening two games of the World Cup that RVP was central to the boss’s plans and the prospect of the striker maintaining his international form at club level is an exciting one.
With Van Persie at the head of Van Gaal’s brand of total football, the entertainment, which was missed in 2013-14, will return to Old Trafford next season and you can’t fail to be thrilled by that thought.
However, it was equally interesting that the Dutch coped adequately when their three goal centre forward was banned for their final group match. Chile gave Van Gaal’s men a test but Jerome Lens and Memphis Depay proved that there is plenty of quality in depth. The question is, does Van Gaal have that quality at Old Trafford and can he cope if RVP faces another prolonged spell in the treatment room?
Van Gaal already has a Van Persie at his disposal for the upcoming campaign but does he have an Arjen Robben? Wayne Rooney lacks the pace of his Dutch counterpart but then again who doesn’t?
Elsewhere, there are suggestions that the new coach could develop Nani to fill the Robben role but that would require a significant transformation. Meanwhile, if you believe the press, Van Gaal, could be battling with Tottenham for the signature of the exciting Depay.
Van Gaal will address that area when he arrives at Old Trafford but the proposed purchase of Daley Blind is another logical move. Primarily a left back the Ajax man can also start on the wing and provides just the versatility that LVG will look for.
Manchester United are currently third favourites at 7.00 with Betfair to win the Premiership in 2014-15 but if Louis Van Gaal can instantly bring the Dutch style to Old Trafford, his new team will be the ones to watch in the title race.