Victor Valdes may have woken up this morning and felt Louis van Gaal has hung him out to dry – but it’s his own fault. If the boss tells you to play for the reserves, even if it’s the last thing you fancy doing, you nod your head and get on with it. Any player who believes they should get to call the shots is quite frankly, a fool.
We live in an age where managers are almost contractually obliged to protect the reputation of their players in public. Even when they’ve let people down, naming and shaming them isn’t the done thing. Whatever you do, don’t upset the talent.
So how refreshing was it to hear the Dutchman speak his mind and actually give an honest answer when asked why his number two keeper wasn’t part of the club’s pre-season tour? I’d say it was very.
The Spaniard won’t like his name tarnished, but covering for unprofessionalism isn’t something any manager should be forced to do.
There are some who’ll say Van Gaal’s notoriously autocratic style of management will soon end up being his downfall again. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach has upset plenty of people in high places down the years (Rivaldo, Mark van Bommel, Luca Toni, the Bayern Munich board etc) and some of those fall-outs have been the precursor to an exit.
However, in this case I can’t help but feel he’s flexed his muscles properly, and at an opportune time.
With four new signings adapting to their new environment, and a hugely important season just three weeks away from starting, his ruthless treatment of Valdes (and Robin van Persie) has made everyone in the squad sit bolt upright.
It’s a stern reminder that buying into their manager’s ‘philosophy’ is non-negotiable – and that his standards are high. A dip in attitude or performance won’t be tolerated, that’s clear now.
His players won’t mind that. As a pro you want to push yourself, and you want the team to be the best it can be. If ill discipline is allowed to run amok you’ll get neither.
Footballers will tell you they want to be treated like grown-ups, but without firm leadership a dressing room can quickly resemble an out-of-control classroom too.
Once one bad egg shows dissent towards the boss - and gets away with it - others will follow suit, trying to push their luck as well. I’ve seen it happen. Soft touch managers who want to please unwittingly create problems of their own making, and end up pleasing very few.
That’s why most footballers enjoy working with straight-talking gaffers. As long as they’re treated fairly and everyone knows where they stand, a hardline boss that knows what he’s doing will always gain respect.
You can’t crack the whip all the time (that would make life pretty miserable) but that won’t be how life is under Van Gaal. He has the talent and charisma to make his players love and fear him in equal measure. That’s an ideal blend.
In the space of just a few days the Dutchman has spent over £50million on three good players, coldly sold a striker he once described as an ‘ultimate pro’, and told the world another of his big-name players has no place in his squad because he isn’t prepared to toe the line.
It’s been a busy week that tells us Van Gaal means business this season.