Louis van Gaal’s long awaited press conference was full of headline grabbing quotes but it was the final question from Sky Sports’ Fraser Dainton that really intrigued.
Will experienced players like Wayne Rooney have an important role under the Dutchman given the number of senior players that have left the club in the summer? The answer was telling, not least because Van Gaal elected to reject the very concept of experience.
“You have to know that I’m not always convinced by the experience of players,” said the new United boss.
“You named Rooney. But for example, Michael Carrick was injured yesterday or the day before that. That is a blow because he is also an experienced player.
“It’s very important that we have experienced players but not only in age, not only in football experience but also experience as a human being. Because my philosophy is not only in football but in total and with that there are not so many experienced players. I’m sorry.”
An apology that hinted at the new reality as Van Gaal sees it. This is year zero – a common platitude for an incoming manager to come out with but one that can still resonate when spoken with authority. Look into the man’s eyes and you know he means it. An experienced player is not an experienced player until he’s had the Van Gaal experience.
“I don’t know,” was Van Gaal’s response when asked what can be achieved this year. “First I have to see how the players perform my philosophy and how quickly they can pick up my philosophy. Until then I cannot answer. It’s very important there is a click between the players and the managers.”
Even then, the discussion ultimately returned to the same fundamentals. “My method is always the same,” he said. “I want to look at the players now; the players present. Of course, I know the players but I don’t know the players until I have coached them.”
There’s excitement among supporters and according to the new manager himself that’s shared by the staff at Manchester United whose enthusiasm upon his arrival has apparently been palpable. But for the players, that excitement will be mixed with anticipation and an element of nervous tension. The test for Wayne Rooney & Co begins now. Can they do it the Louis van Gaal way?