17/07/2014 12:48 BST | Updated 16/09/2014 06:59 BST

Team Focus: Teams Must Resist Dominating Van Gaal's Manchester United Next Season


The first day in a new office can be daunting for even the most steadfast individual. Unfamiliar surroundings, the pressure to make a good first impression - these factors, and more, are enough to unsettle anyone. However, one man who is unlikely to be unnerved by the task ahead of him is Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman started work as Manchester United boss on Wednesday on the back of a splendid World Cup campaign with Netherlands, which understandably has supporters optimistic ahead of the new season.

While the Oranje could not go one step further than South Africa 2010 and win the competition, a 3rd place finish is not to be scoffed at. Netherlands secured their final position with a resounding 3-0 win over hosts Brazil on Saturday and the full-time whistle at Mane Garrincha brought an end to Van Gaal's tenure as head coach of the national team.

Having agreed to succeed David Moyes as United boss back in May, the 62-year-old is now presented with the chance to better his predecessors' record at the Old Trafford helm. The former Premier League champions ended a disappointing 7th in England's top tier last season to compound a miserable campaign that culminated in Moyes' sacking. The chance to appoint Van Gaal clearly convinced the United board to part ways with the former Everton boss and they pursued his signature once the Scot had been relieved of his duties.

Supporters gained a thorough insight into his managerial ability at the World Cup and will have been suitably impressed by the Oranje's showing in South America. Only Germany (7.17) gained a better WhoScored rating than Netherlands (7.12) at the 2014 World Cup, reflecting how impressive the Dutch were over the summer. They were at the very best in the group stages in particular. Netherlands scored the most goals (11) from the opening 3 games, with Daley Blind, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, amongst others, drawing the admiration of the spectators in Brazil.

Interestingly, only Iran (29.7%) averaged less possession than Netherlands (39.5%) in the group stages, with the onus on soaking up pressure and then hitting the opposition on the counter attack. The plan clearly worked - Netherlands had more fastbreak attempts (6) than any other team and Robben (4) more than any other player.

However, once the knockout stages of the competition came around, Netherlands' average possession rose to 55.3%, coinciding with a more toothless Dutch attack. In the last 4 games, they netted 5 goals, 3 of which came in the victory against Brazil. Incidentally, the win over the hosts saw them have their lowest share of possession (42%) in their 4 knockout round matches.


The approach was fairly obvious, but it remains to be seen whether Van Gaal can integrate this gameplan in the Premier League ahead of the upcoming season. Granted, 6 teams averaged more possession than United (55.4%) in England's top tier last term, but their standing in the league means inferior opposition are unlikely to play on the front foot from the off, much like Spain, Chile and, to a lesser extent, Australia did against Netherlands in Group B.

Rather, teams will sit back and wait for United to attack them due to their stature. Mexico and Costa Rica adopted a similar approach in their World Cup meetings with Netherlands in Brazil and came close to causing an upset as they frustrated the opposition, the Dutch relying on a late Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spot kick and a penalty shootout to respectively progress to the quarter and semi-finals.

The performances of the American pairing led to questions being asked of Van Gaal's ability to alter his tactics to secure victory. Netherlands struggled to break down resolute defences, something Premier League rivals are likely to have noticed, which could see them adopt a similar tactic next season when they face United. This limited the influence of Robin van Persie in particular, who up until his penalty against Brazil, had failed to net in 324 minutes of World Cup action having scored 3 in Netherlands' opening 2 games. The striker and Van Gaal will work together once more for United in the upcoming season, but a more reserved approach from opposition teams could limit the attacking influence of 'SuperVan'.

However, it remains to be seen how the team will line up under the Dutchman. Van Gaal favoured a 3-man defence at Brazil 2014, with the system working exceptionally well - Netherlands conceded only 4 goals in 7 games - and could use this depending on how the transfer window pans out. The formation should excite fans, with teams preferring a 4-man defence in the Premier League. The unfamiliarity and entertainment value that comes with a 3-man backline should make for a more enthralling campaign, especially with the business that their rivals have conducted this summer.

Nevertheless, it's important for fans to approach the new season with caution. While Van Gaal tends to do well when he takes over at a new club, teams found a way to counter his system at the World Cup. Provided United do not lure the opposition into a false sense of security in matches next season, the Dutch tactician may have to endure a rocky start in Manchester when the campaign kicks off next month before finding his feet in England.

Do you think Louis van Gaal's Netherlands' gameplan will work with Manchester United? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below

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