Yesterday afternoon, legendary Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal announced that he had officially retired from coaching. Most notably a Champions League winner while at Ajax, the man known as LVG also won league titles at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
He ended his run as coach of Manchester United, and although it was only a two year period, fans of the club should look back at the time with a fondness for what Van Gaal ultimately accomplished.
Coming in as a repairman
LVG came to United at one of the clubs lowest ever points. The Red Devils had just finished seventh in the Premier League at the end of a disastrous season under David Moyes.
It was clear the Scotsman was not ready for the job, and was let go with almost a month left to go in the campaign. Ryan Giggs was the interim boss to close the season, and Van Gaal was announced to be the next permanent manager of United.
Van Gaal was able to impress many even before he got to Manchester. As manager of the Dutch national team, LVG was allowed to lead his country at the 2014 World Cup.
The Oranje were electric to start, demolishing defending champions Spain by an emphatic 5-1 scoreline. Man Utd striker at the time Robin Van Persie scored one of the goals of the tournament, a diving header from outside the penalty area, and his high five celebration with Van Gaal sent United fans into a frenzy.
The Netherlands made it all the way to the semifinals where they lost to Argentina before beating Brazil to secure a bronze medal at the tournament. The team were organized defensively and efficient going forward, which had everyone hopeful that LVG could be the man to restore some glory back to Manchester United.
Ups and downs on the pitch
Looking back at the results on the field, Van Gaal was never truly great, but wasn’t ever terrible either. His United team were at their best in the big games, with LVG putting on a number of tactical masterclasses in crucial fixtures.
He oversaw one of the clubs best performances at Anfield, as a Juan Mata brace gave the Red Devils a deserved victory against their bitter rivals. Van Gaal also lead the club to multiple wins over their noisy neighbors, most notably putting four past Manchester City in a late season contest in 2015.
His most viral moment as United boss came against Arsenal, falling to the ground to protest a referees decision in a game the Red Devils ultimately won. LVG made sure to win at least one trophy before heading out as well, defeating Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final in his final game in charge of the club.
However, LVG was never quite good enough against the smaller teams, with United continuously dropping points when they shouldn’t have. The games were not even fun to watch, as Van Gaal had Man U playing some of the most boring football in the clubs history.
There was a stretch where United lost to AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City, and Stoke City in consecutive matches, only scoring twice in the three game span. Fans were literally falling asleep at Old Trafford, and it was at that time it became clear LVG was not the man for the foreseeable future.
Continued influence off the field
His presence is still felt to this day, as a number of players on the current United team were either signed by Van Gaal, or called up from the youth academy during his time.
Not every transfer made under the Dutchman's watch turned out well. Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, and Morgan Schneiderlin were prime examples of players who flopped while he was in charge. However, many others succeeded, and are still crucial members of the squad to this.
He twice broke the record for a transfer fee spent on a teenager, first bringing in Luke Shaw from Southampton before spending over 50 million on Anthony Martial. Both moves were big risks, but they’ve definitely paid off in the long term for United. LVG also signed Ander Herrera, who’s become a cult hero with fans, and could be a future captain for the club.
As a manager, Van Gaal was always willing to turn to youth when need be. Jesse Lingard made his first-team debut in LVG’s first competitive fixture against Swansea City, and repaid him by scoring the winner to secure the FA Cup in the Dutchman's final game as United manager.
Andreas Pereira was also called up by Van Gaal, with the Brazilian appearing in a number of competitions before being loaned out to La Liga sides Granada and Valencia. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is spending this season at Fulham, but there’s plenty of potential for him at United after LVG gave him his debut against Arsenal.
And then there’s Marcus Rashford, who’s story has since been ingrained in Manchester folklore. He’s on course to become a club legend, and Louis Van Gaal will always be known as the man who gave him his chance in the first team.
It was far from perfect, but United fans should still be thankful for the work Van Gaal did at the club. He came in during a time of crisis, and brought some much-needed stability to the team.
LVG made sure to pick up some silverware before leaving, and ended up setting the club up for the years and years to come. Only time will tell if he will stay retired, but if he does, winning a trophy in his final game will be a fitting end for one of the most iconic managers in footballing history.