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Louis van Gaal's first press conference as Manchester United boss hints at year zero for Wayne Rooney & Co

As the nation's journalists assembled to greet a typically forthright Louis van Gaal in his opening press conference as Manchester United manager, it was his response to the concept of an experienced player that piqued the interest of Adam Bate...

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.

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 13:  AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf looks on before the Serie A match between AC Milan and Calcio Catania at San Siro Stadium on Apri
Image: Clarence Seedorf: Wise beyond years
 “As I have said many times in the media, a boy like Clarence Seedorf was 16 years old when I gave him his debut in the Ajax squad at that time. But at 16 years old he was sometimes more experienced than a player of 30 years old. So it’s always dependent on the personality.

“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.

More from Van Gaal Appointed

“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.

 It was the thrust of much of the press conference. Forget the medals, this is the start for this team. How many players does he need to buy? The question merely received a look of confusion. Answering such a question would be impossible when he hasn’t seen whether these players can embrace his methods yet.

“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.”

Image: Wayne Rooney: Experienced?
 There is some disagreement about what that philosophy amounts to. Van Gaal is insistent that his working methods are “democratic” and “empathetic” rather than the way he is frequently styled as an autocrat who refuses to bend from his beliefs.

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? 

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