Manchester United fans are struggling to believe in Louis van Gaal. The Dutch manager arrived at Old Trafford with a glittering pedigree and a personality to match but hasn’t backed it up with results.
The minimum expectation from the United board was a top four finish and although they lie fourth, it’s hard to see them achieving that objective.
Their remaining fixtures include games against Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. All teams that are in better form than a United side who have lacked verve and drive for the duration of the campaign.
One of the few things van Gaal has in his favour is that aforementioned track record. He has a tendency to make slow starts at clubs before players lap up his philosophy and everything clicks. One high profile protege of the former Ajax and Bayern Munich coach credits him with reinvigorating his career.
Arjen Robben arrived at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid in 2009. He had a moderately successful spell in Spain but one that fell some way short of the standard expected of a player with exceptional ability. Perhaps he was, as players so often are, swallowed up at Madrid. At Bayern, van Gaal made him believe in himself.
Speaking to the Daily Mail about coaches throughout his career, Robben said of van Gaal: “From the first day on, he made me feel important. He gave me an important role and I had a great first year. I made a big step forward because of Van Gaal. I am very thankful to him. He is a coach that makes individual players better. That is rare nowadays.”
It’s hard to pick out an individual who is thriving under the current regime at United. Apart from David De Gea. The Spaniard has become arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in recent months but it’s said that his relationship with van Gaal isn’t great.
The interview was conducted before United were dumped out of the FA Cup by Arsenal on Monday night but Robben was confident that van Gaal could have lifted that trophy as well as securing Champions League qualification.
“I have a lot of confidence he will be a success. He is a coach that needs time, to build his team up. When he qualifies this year for the Champions League – and he has a realistic chance of winning the FA Cup also – if that happens, he has had a great season.
“There can be no criticism. You must not forget where they have come from. Last season was even worse. They played very bad and that is why they are not in Europe. I know Van Gaal’s quality and I know he will get it right.”
If things are so rosy at United then why didn’t Robben join his old boss there last summer? Because there’s no reason for him to leave Munich, that’s why. “The life I have with my family is so good, the team has been successful. That is why I stay,” Robben said. “If things were not going so well, if I was not enjoying it, maybe that (joining United) would be the first option (smiles). But he respects my situation. He knows I am happy.”
You can read the full interview with Robben and see what he said about Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola by clicking here.