So much so that, by the time the Netherlands were ready to face hosts Brazil, many truly believed the new Manchester United boss would simply throw in the towel, play a weakened team and not pay any attention to the game.
"I will stick to the facts," Van Gaal began.
"The facts are that Brazil started first. And Brazil again has played first again and we played a day later."
"These are the facts. I am not going to beat around bush. Then you know what the implications are if that is the case."
The 62-year-old went on: "I think this match should never be played. I've been saying that for 10 years."
"But the worst thing is I believe that, chances are, you lose twice in a row and a tournament where you've played so marvellously well you'll leave as a loser after losing the last two matches."
So what happened? Well, the Netherlands beat Brazil 3-0 and strolled to a bronze medal with a composed, tactically superior performance.
It looks as though Van Gaal is endearing himself to Man United fans, as the mind games have already begun.
It proved a clever ploy, in the end, as Luiz Felipe Scolari's side entered the third-place play-off relaxed and devoid of energy. They looked as though they were expecting a Dutch side to operate at below 50%.
They didn't need much more than that, of course, but the claims that Van Gaal didn't care about the clash were obviously just a device to help him achieve his goal.
The Netherlands were clearly helped by Brazil's own ineptitude, though a side that truly didn't care wouldn't have punished them so ruthlessly.
Indeed, Van Gaal seems to share two key characteristics with Sir Alex Ferguson: firstly, he doesn't seem to care what people think of him. Secondly, he seems willing to do whatever it takes to win.
And, although they are still yet to taste World Cup success, Netherlands fans have at least seen proof of the 62-year-old's tactical approach in their journey towards third place. Will a similar result be good enough for United fans? We could be in for an exciting season ahead in Manchester.