You would think that the 62-year-old, who is currently the Netherlands national team coach, will hope that all his United players participating in football’s biggest competition will return happy and fit. After all, he will want his new team to be as motivated as possible, and a good World Cup will go a long way in boosting the players’ morale.
However, there are two United players who Van Gaal will probably want not to have a good World Cup: David de Gea and Juan Mata.
The reason: they are both part of the Spain team who will take on the Netherlands in Group B in Brazil. And although United will be on Van Gaal’s mind, his primary objective at the moment is to lead his country to World Cup glory.
And Spain – among other teams - stand in their way. The defending European and world champions, the Dutch, Chile and Australia all have been pitted in the same group. As a matter of fact, Spain and the Netherlands confront each other in the opening game of the group in Salvador on June 13.
Spain and the Netherlands will be the favourites to progress from this group, but Chile cannot be written off just yet. Australia are the weak link, but Ange Postecoglou’s side have the potential to stage an upset or two.
Even if the Spaniards and the Dutch finish in the top two in Group B, they could still face each other later in the competitions. But with Spain out, Van Gaal and his Netherlands team will have one fewer big side to worry about.
Which is why Van Gaal would be hoping that Spain do not manage to progress to the last 16. As unlikely as it sounds, it is not impossible – stranger things have happened. De Gea and Mata both will be part of La Roja’s 23-man squad when it is eventually announced, although neither is likely to start the group games.
Spain will begin the competition as one of the favourites, and so will the Netherlands. However, given that Brazil are the hosts, they will be most people’s first choice to win the tournament, while Argentina should not be written off.