A Clash of “Philosophies”
How times change. The former apprentice is now centre stage, but can his tutor teach him a lesson or two the hard way?
Two weeks ago Louis van Gaal congratulated his “colleague” José Mourinho and Chelsea on winning the Premiership during his press conference ahead of United’s match against Crystal Palace: today, at his press conference ahead of relegation threatened Hull City, van Gaal assures his former assistant that the shoe will be on the other foot come next May.
When asked about his prediction for next season, the Dutchman allowed himself a wry smile, before saying, with trademark self-confidence:
“This is still not a Louis van Gaal team. We are closer than we were at the start of season, but we are not there yet. We will build in the summer and prepare before the season begins. Chelsea have been a special team this year, with a special trainer. Many say their style is not attractive. But statistically, they deserve to have won the league. They will be back prepared, and hungry to win again. But next May, it will be my colleague, José Mourinho who will be congratulating Manchester United on winning the Premiership.”
Van Gaal, a picture of self-confidence, believes with several changes to his squad, United will win the Premier League next season.
What a difference a fortnight can make. From humble to imposing. A public throwing down of the gauntlet between two of the most successful and confident (don’t call them arrogant!) tacticians in world football. And what’s better? We are the privileged ones, the English football fans. They have chosen to test themselves against one another in our backyard, the Premier League. Not in Spain, or Germany, or Italy which (arguably) would be a simpler task, they have chosen our league, the same one many regard as the most competitive in world football. Two of the best, two former colleagues, and two friends positioned to go neck and neck with squads filled with world class players…and bags of cash. There is no doubt the rivalry was evident this season when the two met in the technical area, or were relayed messages through the media, but it seems as van Gaal establishes himself in the league, the rivalry will develop into a spectacle, a small, but significant subplot of the much larger Premier League picture.
What makes the spectacle more intriguing is their difference in approach, or “philosophy” as one prefers to call it. If one believes the sky is blue, then the other certainly believes it’s anything but. Mourinho will set up as he has always has, extremely solid defensively with players able to devastate on the break. Not van Gaal. We have seen glimpses of van Gaal’s trademark 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 play intricate possession football in their opponents half this season, but United have been far from consistent. Something he, more than anyone else, realises needs work if United are to hit the ground running come August.
The Catalan brains trust. Van Gaal and Mourinho share thoughts during their time together at Barcelona.
Van Gaal’s knack for developing top flight managers is well known, a trainer’s trainer if you will. Many, (and maybe even he) believes that he is truly the master. Given Mourinho has won three more league titles, five more domestic cups, and one more Champions League than van Gaal, Mourinho must be regarded as a brilliant pupil, but a pupil nonetheless. We tend to steer clear of sensationalistic language at this newspaper, but, given the personality of the two, I feel the coming metaphor is apt: like the tagline of a Hollywood blockbuster, this is truly a battle of the master against the apprentice.
So ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our FM16 story. I will be playing as van Gaal, and my good friend Feliks will be playing Mourinho. Strap yourselves in.