Louis van Gaal Holds Court Ahead of Earthquakes Friendly
Manchester United is one of those clubs where even in the shadow of their opponent's stadium, even when that stadium is half way around the world, the journalists who cover their team outnumber the local reporters 10 to 1.
Such was the case Monday when head coach Louis van Gaal and center-back Chris Smalling were briefly made available to media before their Guiness International Champions Cup match against the Earthquakes Tuesday night at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. But if you were expecting the enigmatic Dutchman to overlook the relative minnow that is his opponent, he would correct you with a surprisingly detailed answer:
“Of course, I think we have a higher level than San Jose Earthquakes. But they are fit. They have played already many, many matches. And we are not fit. We are not able to play more than 60 minutes, for example, the players. So that’s one. And secondly, for example, the difference with San Jose Earthquakes and Club America is also 20 centimeters. Every player is 20cm taller. So also the corner kicks and free kicks are much [more] dangerous from San Jose than from Club America. And also the playing style is different. Club America played 4-4-1-1, and I think the San Jose Earthquakes shall play 4-1-4-1. So more defensive. And then we have to see how we solve that problem."
Not only has van Gaal scouted the Quakes, he even instructed his second team to simulate their tactics in their 11v11 training. For van Gaal, "It’s always the same process of preparation."
In terms of personnel, van Gaal revealed that he would be utilizing the same lineups that he did against Club America at the weekend, and that David De Gea and Antonio Valencia were out injured.
Other than those few brief notes on the game itself, the rest of the questioning from the primarily-British press was pure red meat for Red Devils fans.
Want to know about van Gaal's pursuit of Sergio Ramos? “I cannot talk about these rumors. I have said already that it’s a process. Maybe Mr. Ramos is in the process. You never know.”
What about a "surprise" striker signing? “Yes. It’s in the process…it’s not the striker that the media has written. You have to wait and see."
Will he get rid of Chicharito? "I have long term [plans for him] but you never know in this football world."
Chris Smalling didn't seem phased by all the talk of still more center-back purchases, saying “At Manchester United there’s always competition. Even when I signed, there were five center backs already here. You have to work hard to get to the top...[because] United can always challenge the best.”
Regardless of future comings and goings, it's clear that van Gaal is significantly more comfortable with the squad in his second preseason than in his first. He once again praised the "balance" of his current squad, contrasted with the squad he inherited that was simultaneously too large yet lacking in depth in key areas. According to van Gaal, “I dont believe in big selections. We have sold a lot of players, [the press] never talk about that. More than 17 in my [tenure].”
Van Gaal is at his best, however, when he's at his most sardonic. United is expected to operate with a fairly traditional Dutch 4-3-3 next year with captain Wayne Rooney leading the line, and a reporter asked him why he made the move, to which van Gaal replied "I’ve listened to you, that’s why. I think you have more knowledge than I. And now Rooney is there."
He closed his remarks with a decidedly Dutch sense of humor, reflecting on the way things change over 24 years as a manager: "Every club has its own structure and culture. I think that is also great. Of course, My philosophy is not always the same philosophy of the club. So I have to adapt always. You did not expect it that I should say that, but it is like that, I have to adapt!”
The 20-time English champions will take on the Earthquakes Tuesday, July 21st, at 8:00pm PT, in Avaya Stadium.