United Ready For Lift-Off With Van Gaal Their Anti-Moyes


Manchester United began last season under David Moyes, a manager without a major trophy to his name.

Twelve months on, it's possible they will begin a campaign under a manager who's just won the World Cup.

What a difference a year makes. And what a stunning contrast between the ashen face of a departing Moyes and the bright red cheeks of his buoyant successor, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.

It goes beyond their complexions, and their respective trophy hauls. Leading the Dutch in Brazil, Van Gaal has delivered a convincing case that he's more than just antidote to Moyes; he might just be the anti-Moyes.

Take the swaggering press conference bravado. After Van Gaal's team scored twice in the dying minutes to beat Mexico, he claimed the stage like the all-conquering frontman of a band that wouldn't exist without him.

He was like Bono up there - calling the Dutch squad "a modest group of players", while bringing attention to his tactical switches and adept use of the water break. As David Kidd wrote in the Mirror, the overriding message from Van Gaal was simply, "I am a football genius".

He's cocky, combative and utterly convinced of his powers. Moyes trod gingerly and deliberately into Old Trafford, humble to a fault, but you get the feeling Van Gaal will roll up like he owns the place.

Such an approach might have jarred following Ferguson, but after Moyes it's what supporters are craving, and the players badly need.

United fans are lapping it up. It didn't hurt that Van Gaal masterminded the most Fergie-esque of late shows against Mexico, a dramatic 2-1 turnaround that conjured memories of 1999 Champions League glory at Camp Nou.

It doesn't hurt than Van Gaal relishes tactical warfare either. He's prepared to adapt to in-game situations with bold decisions, like switching between three and four at the back, moving his key players around of even taking them off.

It's a fluid, evolving game and Moyes' United were found out on too many occasions by opposing managers who preyed on his team's consistent weaknesses. If it's broke, Van Gaal likes to fix it.

He also appears to have a more clinical approach in the transfer market. Where Moyes fumbled and ended up with only £27.5 million flop Marouane Fellaini to show last summer, Van Gaal has already banged the hammer down on deals for Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, and it's still early July.

More transfers will follow, and we can expect Van Gaal to trim his squad of fat along the way. Alex Buttner, who has already left for Dynamo Moscow, won't be the only recognised name missing from United's Premier League squad list come August.

Van Gaal will make it happen. He's unashamed of his win-at-all-costs mentality, and it will serve him well in attempting to return United to where they belonged under Ferguson. His glowing reputation won't hurt when it comes to attracting world-class players either.

Arjen Robben, a mooted United transfer target for Van Gaal this summer, can't speak highly enough about the man who signed him at Bayern Munich. He credits Van Gaal with providing the trust he needed to thrive, and continuing to have faith in him while he struggled domestically in Germany.

"I was not a special case - he shows faith in all of his players - and that is one of the reasons why players want to play for him - and why they like to play for him," Robben said.

It's a sentiment United desperately need reflected in their players again. Reports were rife Moyes lost the dressing last season, and there transparent moments on the field where you just didn't believe they were giving their all for him.

Players are ultimately responsible for their performances, but as Ferguson showed in his 26 years at United, there are ways of maintaining the standards, and ways of inspiring the very best to get better.

For whatever reason, and not for want of trying, Moyes failed on that score. Meanwhile, Van Gaal has Robben playing the best football of his career, Dirk Kuyt playing like a 21-year-old and Wesley Sneijder hinting at the 2010 Wesley Sneijder all over again.

In beating Spain 5-1, his Netherlands team became more than the sum of their parts. A squad most felt was weaker than the 2010 version, leaped among the genuine contenders to lift the trophy. They might yet do it.

If they do, Van Gaal will be crowned the football genius he already thinks he is. And rightly so, because what more is there for a manager to do that extract the absolute best from a group of players and continue to find new ways of winning.

As of right now, his stock is as high as his opinion of himself. All things considered, that confirms Van Gaal as the anti-Moyes every United fan was hoping for.

Manchester United are 6.00 to win the 2014/15 Premier League.