In the second part of our comprehensive look at Louis van Gaal, we speak to Jason Pettigrove. Jason is a Barcelona fan who has followed the club all his life.
He is currently a full-time football writer for outlets such as Bleacher Report & beIN SPORTS with La Liga being his area of speciality.
Jason sat down with us to talk about about Van Gaal’s turbulent time at Barcelona.
Sir Bobby Robson had success at Barcelona but was moved upstairs to make way for Louis van Gaal. What did fans make of that decision – was it a logical move or a questionable one?
Bobby Robson was never really accepted at Barcelona with his reign coming as it did on the back of Johan Cruyff’s dream team era. There are parallels that can be drawn with Tata Martino coming so soon after Vilanova/Guardiola.
Like Martino, it was a decision that was expected and accepted.
What kind of tactical approach did Van Gaal take at Barcelona?
He always played the 4-3-3 and his attention to detail was, and is, legendary. Players were constantly changing position but always aware of their role. The total football of Rinus Michel’s.
It wasn’t unheard of for him to produce individual analysis of a player’s opposite number in the lead up to a game.
Some players likened going out on the pitch to being on autopilot such was the depth of Van Gaal’s research.
Always attacking, Van Gaal’s teams always-dictated games and not the other way round.
Why did Rivaldo clash so much with Van Gaal? Was it personal or completely due to professional decisions taken by Van Gaal?
Rivaldo got too big for his boots. After winning the Golden Ball, the Brazilian thought it would be a good idea to tell Van Gaal that he wasn’t going to play out on the left any longer and would sit just behind the strikers. Big mistake. You don’t question Van Gaal or his tactics. Rivaldo was benched. Rightly in my opinion.
In this role, the constant clashes with the media made Van Gaal famous in the way he approached them. Did this method help or hinder him?
It’s just the way he is. One of his main character traits is the constant ‘need’ to work a room full of journalists. To show them that this is his domain, making sure that everyone knows that he is boss. Jose Mourinho obviously learnt a thing or two from him in this regard.
It really doesn’t bother him at how he is perceived in the media and he recently admonished Dan Roan of the BBC for a “stupid question.”
He might have to tread carefully here because any hint of a chink in his armour and the UK media will rip him to pieces just like the Catalan media did whilst he was at Barcelona.
Van Gaal left under a cloud but the club still turned to him again after sacking Lorenzo Serra Ferrer and not appointing Carlos Rexach on a permanent basis in 2002. Why was this tenure not as successful as his first?
It just didn’t work. There were good moments like ten consecutive wins in the Champions League which was a record at the time, hinting at what might have been. Playing Juan Roman Riquelme out of position probably wasn’t the wisest of decisions either.
Inconsistency in the league and perhaps a ‘trigger finger’ from the board saw him leave by mutual consent. In truth, he was never really given a chance the second time around.
At Manchester United, Van Gaal will be given more control than at his time with Barcelona. Do you see him being successful?
As long as players buy into his philosophy then there is absolutely no doubt he will bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
He likes full control over his players not just on the football pitch but also in their private lives. The United players need to prepare themselves for that.
Like Sir Alex, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and expects everyone to be professional at all times. So you won’t see Welbeck or Rooney celebrating outside nightclubs at 3am again for example.
His is a strict regime, but a successful one.
Jason Pettigrove is a Barcelona fan that lives in London. Currently working full-time as a football writer, his love affair with the Catalan club is long lasting.
Whilst Jason isn’t writing, he is a PR Delegate for ‘Penya Blaugrana London’, the official Barcelona Supporters Club in London. They are the oldest supporters club based outside of Spain and their unique HQ is on a boat, moored on the River Thames.
Jason welcomes all to visit where all of Barcelona’s games are aired. For more information, go to www.pblondon.org. You can also follow Jason on Twitter @jasonpettigrove, where you can ask him more about his supporters club and Louis van Gaal.