Louis Van Gaal has finally been put out of his misery, or rather Manchester United fans have been put out of their misery – it depends on your viewpoint of the entire mess. There’s no doubt the timing could have been better, as news trickled in of Mourinho’s imminent arrival just as Van Gaal modelled the F.A Cup trophy to the Wembley crowd.
Regardless of the lack of tact employed by the senior United figures, it’s difficult to query their decision to remove Van Gaal from his post. As stories continue to leak from within the dressing room, it’s clear that will be little to no sympathy shown towards his dismissal from the players – rumours of Van Gaal’s email hacks are the latest in a long line of extraordinary ‘coaching practices’.
Van Gaal has positioned himself as a manager that players would cross the street to avoid outside of the training ground. His ‘methods’ have been so unpopular that the cataclysmic rift between himself and his players almost reached the point of mutiny.
There were the same opportunities for freedom of speech in Louis Van Gaal’s dressing room as there are in Tiananmen Square.
Players knew they had to stick to Van Gaal’s rigid, defensive system or risk being expelled from the team. Manchester United have scored just one more goal than 16th place, Sunderland, a side who spent 237 days in the relegation zone. Van Gaal spawned the least aesthetically pleasing style of football that United have ever played – it wasn’t long before the players’ respect for the Dutch coach disappeared completely and the horror stories streamed out of Old Trafford.
Van Gaal’s ‘evaluation sessions’, which took place the day after every match were a platform the coach used to systematically dismantle any player he felt had underperformed. “He would crucify players in front of each other” claimed a source who wished to remain anonymous. United’s two most senior players, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, were pressured by their teammates to approach their coach to express their concerns… it achieved nothing positive.
In reality, Carrick and Rooney’s intentions back-fired horrifically – leading directly to the Van Gaal email hacking scandal. The coach started sending his squad individual emails highlighting their flaws and mistakes, attaching video clips to highlight his dissatisfaction with their performance – a real moral boosting process!
Many of the disillusioned players simply ignored and deleted their manager’s emails at first – much to Van Gaal’s fury. In a radical move, sources from inside the dressing room reported that Van Gaal began embedding a tracker onto his emails, a form of hacking software that could monitor if the emails were opened and for how long. It didn’t deter players from showing their disregard for the Dutchman, many of whom opened the emails on their phones, before leaving it on the side for 20 minutes without ever reading their coaches criticisms.
A manager does not necessarily need to be popular, but he certainly needs to be respected – as was the case with Sir Alex Ferguson. Partnered with Manchester United’s disappointing season and ugly football, Van Gaal’s abrasive approach towards his players was a significant factor towards his eventual dismissal.