Van Gaal goes the way of most coaches
Sports talk The moment professional coaches sign on, they’re on their way to being sacked.
So Manchester United finally sacked Louis van Gaal. The club management was desperate to wield the axe for months.
Within minutes of Man U winning the FA Cup final, once the showpiece of the English football season, van Gaal was gone. Furious negotiations were already well advanced with The Special One, as Jose Mourinho describes himself.
That’s the same Mourinho who was sacked by Chelsea last December.
Van Gaal was sent packing after two years. Man U finished fifth in the league and won the FA Cup this season.
It’s a bit rough to call that a dismal season. Virtually any professional football club in England would love that sort of ‘‘failure’’. But Man U are judged by different standards.
The All Blacks can win 10 straight tests, then have one loss and be the subject of handwringing and head-shaking. Any defeat is unacceptable.
So it is with Man U. Winning the FA Cup wasn’t enough, because in finishing fifth in the league (actually fourth equal), the club didn’t qualify for the Champions League, an expensive and embarrassing failure.
It was said Man U weren’t attacking enough. Under Van Gaal they were ‘‘boring’’ their fans. That is laughable.
If Man U went through the season unbeaten and won every match 1-0 (a bit like Leicester City this season), would their fans complain about lack of entertainment? Not likely. It’s the ticks in theWcolumn that count.
Van Gaal has had success with Ajax, Barcelona (twice), AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich. His winning percentage at Man U was 52.4.
David Moyes, his predecessor at Man U, was sacked even faster, despite a winning percentage of 52.9. Before them the incomparable Alex Ferguson won 59.6 per cent of his matches.
No other Man U manager in the past century, not even the much-lauded Matt Busby, reached 52 per cent. Van Gaal’s ‘‘failure’’ was only relative.
I wonder about the thought processes behind the constant sacking of sports coaches. It’s childish and often self-defeating.
The New Zealand Rugby Union broke with tradition when it retained Graham Henry despite the All Blacks’ inglorious 2007 World Cup campaign. The result? World Cup victory in 2011.
Of course, the influence of coaches can be overstated. Ian Chappell and Shane Warne often claim a coach is only good for driving the team bus, and were particularly disparaging of John Buchanan, who built a fantastic record as Australian cricket coach.
But Buchanan could call on quality players such as the Waugh brothers, Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Clarke, Warne, McGrath, Lee and Gillespie. He couldn’t help but have a great record with that lot.
It’s always been a lot easier to sack the coach than the star players.
So in the West Indies in 1995, when Chris Cairns and Adam Parore walked out on the New Zealand cricket team, coach Glenn Turner (appointed to instil discipline in the side) was dumped and Cairns and Parore were welcomed back.
Professional coaches are on to a loser. The moment they sign on, they’re on their way to being sacked – the date just hasn’t been confirmed.
That’s how I feel about van Gaal.
However, I’m not bleeding for him – he did leave Manchester United with £6 million (about NZ$12.5 million) as a pay-off!
Louis van Gaal celebrates the FA Cup triumph with defender Chris Smalling. Van Gaal learned shortly after the match he was losing his job.