Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal arrived at the club’s Carrington training ground yesterday to begin his new role.
The Dutchman dodged the cameras at the main gate, but was shown in pictures on the club’s Twitter feed alongside his assistant manager Ryan Giggs and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Van Gaal was due to meet those players not on a post-World Cup break as well as the rest of the club staff.
He has taken up the reins only days after guiding the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup in Brazil, eschewing a break himself.
And the 62-year-old, United’s first manager from outside the British Isles, will have no time to ease himself in.
Today he will be officially presented at a press conference at Old Trafford at 3pm before jetting off to the USA tomorrow for the club’s pre-season tour.
United will play matches against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, while Van Gaal’s Old Trafford debut will come in a friendly against Valencia on August 12.
Four days later United will open their Premier League campaign at home to Swansea.
A fast start will be a major priority for the new boss as United look to bounce back from last year’s seventh-placed finish, which cost Van Gaal’s predecessor David Moyes his job.
There is plenty for Van Gaal to get his teeth into, not least whether he wants to go into the transfer market to add to the summer signings of left-back Luke Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera. Defence appears to be an area of priority given the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, while Van Gaal must also decide whether a number of players have a future at Old Trafford.
United have been heavily linked with a bid for Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, a star of the World Cup with Chile, and speculation increased when Antonio Conte stepped down as Juve manager on Tuesday.
But at a press conference to unveil Massimiliano Allegri as his successor yesterday, Juventus insisted Vidal is not for sale.
Club administrator Giuseppe Marotta said: “Vidal is a Juventus player and we have never put him up for sale. A lot of clubs have asked for him but we have never sat down to negotiate.
“We want to keep him. Vidal has expressed many times how happy he is to remain in Turin and, if that is confirmed, we will be happy to continue together.”
Speaking in Chile earlier this week about the potential of a move to United, Vidal said: “I’m already at a great team, Juventus, so I will be just as calm if the Manchester United option falls through.”
Areas for Van Gaal to address
Top of Van Gaal’s to-do list must be central defence following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Filling such a big hole will not be easy. First Van Gaal must decide where Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling fit into his plans. United have been linked with the likes of German World Cup winner Mats Hummels and Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, and bringing in an authoritative figure seems essential. Right-back is another area Van Gaal might want to address, with Smalling and Jones having provided the main cover for Rafael, who struggled with injury last season.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE AND WAYNE ROONEY
Neither Alex Ferguson nor David Moyes solved the problem of how to get the best out of Van Persie and Rooney playing together. Van Gaal and Van Persie clearly have a good relationship from their involvement with Holland’s national team, so the new boss is likely to approach it from the standpoint of how Rooney fits in. He gave Arjen Robben essentially a free role behind Van Persie for Holland and could adopt a similar approach.
If Rooney plays in a free role or as a No 10, that leaves Van Gaal with the issue of what to do with Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Marouane Fellaini. All three are at their best playing behind a central striker. The futures of Kagawa and Fellaini in particular must be in doubt, along with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Nani and Anderson. Van Gaal has already signed Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera and United are linked with Chile World Cup star Arturo Vidal. The club sorely lacked authority in midfield last season and restoring the dynamism that has been United’s trademark would be an instant win with the fans. Vidal would appear to be a good start.
Van Gaal wasted no time in confirming Ryan Giggs would be his assistant manager, while he has also brought in fellow Dutchmen Albert Stuivenberg, Frans Hoek and Marcel Bout. But the futures of Giggs’s class of ’92 colleagues Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes remains unclear. All three took on key roles last season when Giggs briefly took over the reins following Moyes’ sacking. They are influential figures at Old Trafford so could be valuable allies for new boss Van Gaal. He will also be aware that Moyes angered many fans right at the start by dispensing with popular coaches Rene Meulensteen, Eric Steele and Mike Phelan.
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