THE BLOG
03/03/2015 12:44 GMT | Updated 03/05/2015 06:59 BST

Is Louis van Gaal Risking a Manchester United Revolt With His Strict Regime?

Manchester United fans greeted the July arrival of Louis van Gaal with mass approval - a stroke of genius by Ed Woodward and the club's hierarchy after the perceived fiasco of the David Moyes era at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman is revered throughout the world for his tactical genius. He built a Champions League winning team at Ajax, enjoyed success at Barcelona, broke the Eredivisie status quo with AZ Alkmaar and took Bayern Munich back to contesting top continental honours.

Most recently he had led an unfancied Netherlands team to third place in the 2014 World Cup, including a 5-1 humiliation of reigning champions Spain in their very first game. Simply, there was no man better suited to take United back to the pinnacle of English and European football.

However, the team has struggled through the season so far and a little over seven months on, serious questions are beginning to emerge from fans and analysts alike. United have played within themselves for most of the campaign, despite boasting a plethora of stunningly talented individuals who can change games in an instant.

The Dutchman has regularly been praised in the past for a strict no-nonsense style of coaching. But now, as he continues to search for tactical balance, seemingly in vain, that particular aspect of his personality could be what comes back to haunt him.

Alex Ferguson was a strict taskmaster too, but crucially gave 'special' players, notably Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo among others, the license to express themselves and affect games how they wanted. That model propelled United domestic dominance and European glory. It is getting clearer and clearer that the likes of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera are not afforded the same luxury under the current regime.

There have been no suggestions that van Gaal has fallen out with any United players yet - the rumours regarding David de Gea were branded a lie by the goalkeeper himself - but with his apparent insistence on strictly adhering to only the tactics he has laid out means the chance of a bust-up with a key player is a danger.

In his 2011 autobiography, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who encountered van Gaal briefly during his time at Ajax, labelled the man "a pompous arse who wanted to be a dictator."

The Swede also recalled a meeting he'd had with van Gaal, who was then serving as the Amsterdam club's Technical Director. He wanted to drill home the idea that every player has a set role in the team and must play in a certain way, to the point where Ibrahimovic thought he was undermining Ajax's then head coach, Ronald Koeman.

The forward revealed about the conversation, "It was the same old stuff about how number nine defends to the right, while ten goes to the left and vice versa, and he drew a bunch of arrows and finished with a harsh 'Do you understand? Do you get all this?'"

That particular exchange ended in a rather bad tempered manner as Ibrahimovic decided he was being attacked and responded with a shot that "legend" Marco van Basten had told him strikers should reserve their energy for scoring goals, rather than waste it by doing what the philosophy dictated.

Van Gaal was left "fuming".

Of course, few individuals in world football are as fiery as Ibrahimovic, but the suggestion that any number of players at Old Trafford could become similarly disenchanted by being told exactly how to play during each and every moment is a concern.

There are few complaints with the way van Gaal is setting up his United side defensively. The club has one of the better records in the Premier League this season, even counting the five goals conceded against Leicester in September and world class interventions from David de Gea have become less necessary since Christmas.

What the fans expect though is free flowing attacking football and that is what talented players want to give.

It is still too early to speculate that van Gaal will face a mutiny if he persists with his current management style. Several individuals have publicly expressed acceptance of what is being asked of them, but not every United player is going to be as willing as Wayne Rooney to do any job for the team and the danger lurks.

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