United are on the verge of appointing another manager after the failed, short lived reign of David Moyes, and Holland boss van Gaal is the clear favourite to take the job, with some speculation suggesting that the 62-year-old will be confirmed as the Red Devils' new boss this week.
Some United fans are concerned at the prospect of the club's first ever foreign manager, but van Gaal is a noted disciplinarian who would bring a fear factor back to the United squad, who were allegedly found making fun of Moyes.
One of the most controversial periods of van Gaal's managerial career was his first stint in charge of Barcelona. After arriving from Ajax in 1997, van Gaal immediately had players who refused to take to his strict methods, and author Tim Hanlon described the situation at the Camp Nou in his book 'A Catalan Dream'.
“In Holland, he had made his name bringing youth players through the ranks and his previous experience as a teacher complimented this role perfectly. However, his disciplinarian approach did not go down well with the experienced international at Barcelona who resented being treated like children.”
“The fans, too, did not take to van Gaal, who they considered to be abrasive and aloof. They did not like his style of football and were unhappy at his unwillingness to embrace the Catalan culture. While van Gaal and Cruyff both championed attacking football, the main difference was that for van Gaal everything had to be planned – from the players' movements to the length of the grass on the pitch.”
“Barca fans had been spoilt watching the individual skills of Romario, Laudrup and Stoichkov; now van Gaal offered what appeared to be a dour alternative with his constant chime that the route to success was through effort and organisation," said Hanlon.
With the United squad set to undergo a huge overhaul, many international stars will be leaving the club, such as Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, giving van Gaal the chance to establish his regime with a number of new, younger players and embed a culture akin to Ferguson's.
The noted attacking football, planning and encouraged hard work is reminiscent Ferguson's reign at Old Trafford, and whilst there is no way that van Gaal could replicate what the Scot did at United, he can implement a similar setup as they seek to return to the summit of English football.