Although finishing in fourth place in the Premier League is not much to shout about if you are a Manchester United fan, it was a huge improvement on David Moyes’ solitary season in charge, in which the club laboured to a seventh-placed finish.
Louis van Gaal took over the club last summer and transformed it from top to bottom. His strictness and will to win at all costs meant a major change in training methods and match preparation.
The Dutchman is a very hands-on manager, who looks to implement his style of play to his team as soon as he gets to a new club. For someone who has won so much in his managerial career with the likes of Barcelona, Ajax and Bayern Munich, he instantly commanded enough respect for United’s big names to take notice.
After over 20 outgoings and six incomings last summer, it took a few months for the squad to gel together and to take in Van Gaal’s style of football. For months, United were playing poor football but still picking up the required results.
An injury crisis and changes in system did not help, but eventually United showed signs that they could return to their best next season. Impressive wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City all-but sealed their top-four spot.
The players are fully behind Van Gaal. Juan Mata, who scored the crucial brace to defeat the Reds at Anfield, has taken to the club’s official website to voice his approval of the Dutchman’s first season in charge.
He said, “He is a tough manager, very strict and always looking at the players in every training session and every game, but he’s also a very good manager. He has great experience, a really good and strong character and he always wants to win and play good football.”
Michael Carrick concurs, stating that Van Gaal handled his injury situation superbly and that United needed a big character after the disappointment of the previous campaign.
The 33-year-old said, “He's been terrific for me. I was injured when he first came in, for three months, so it was a while before I really got involved with the boys, with him and his staff. But he was good with me from day one. He’s a big character, he’s been in the game a long time and he’s seen a lot of things, so he’s got a lot to give to the squad.
“Yeah, it’s good. Training was slightly different and slightly new to some of the boys, with the way he puts the sessions together and what he expects, but you can see his imprint on the team and how the team is playing. You know the style of play, the possession and patience... that certainly shines through when we play the games and it’s a good sign for next season.”