CONFIDENT Louis van Gaal insisted yesterday he can swiftly restore Manchester United to the top of English football, and he has targeted the Barclays Premier League crown in his first season.
Van Gaal was announced as United’s new manager on a three-year contract, which will begin after he has taken the Netherlands to the World Cup finals in Brazil. “My ambition is to have them back top where they were in the years of [Sir Alex] Ferguson,” he told a talk show on Dutch RTL television.
“They are hoping I can do it in my first season. I did it in Spain [with Barcelona] in my first season and I think I can do it in England too. I think it is a difficult task but a fantastic challenge.”
The 62-year-old Van Gaal said he was already in deep discussion over new signings for next season but refused to confirm he had been handed a considerable budget to strengthen the team.
“I’ve haven’t talked to them [the club] about money, only over the players that I would like to have and those that may leave,” he said. “I’ve never been one to bother about transfer sums. That, the club can negotiate. I just want to know what is possible and what is not.”
Van Gaal also hinted at his frustration over recent weeks as mass media speculation about his move to Old Trafford had to be met with unconvincing denials. “It’s a process and I couldn’t tell what was happening. I found it frustrating because for several weeks I have had to peddle ‘nos’ when I am, in general, usually open-hearted,” he said.
The coach said the process of signing for United had been relatively quick. “It didn’t take very long. I was approached directly after the sacking of [David] Moyes. I have negotiated much longer with other clubs.”
He said he had already had intensive discussions with his new employers over his coaching staff, the playing squad, the pre-season preparations and the youth development set-up at the club. “I have no agent but I had a friend who is a specialist in negotiating to do the deal for me. If you negotiate yourself it affects your relationship with those seeking to appoint you and I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Van Gaal said he had sent a text message to family and friends 30 minutes before Monday’s announcement, including one to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, his former assistant in Spain. “He was the first who responded. He said he was jealous of the list of clubs that I have worked at,” said Van Gaal, who first coached Ajax Amsterdam and has worked at Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich and won the Dutch title with unfashionable AZ Alkmaar in 2009.
Former United midfielder Owen Hargreaves believes Van Gaal is capable of winning the title in his first season. Hargreaves, 33, said: “If they can get the players necessary I don’t doubt that Van Gaal could even lead them to the title. But they need to have a great summer. I doubt anything less than minimum Champions League [qualification] and even potentially competing for the title would be sufficient for him.
“He has been so successful everywhere he’s been, so I don’t think they could have had a better option at this point. His sides play good football, they try to dominate possession and wait for that opening and I think United fans will be excited.”