Louis van Gaal believes Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is now using a tactic he brought to Manchester United.
Van Gaal, 67, enjoyed a short but eventful two-year spell as Old Trafford boss – winning a single FA Cup and finishing just once inside the Premier League’s top four.
Van Gaal’s United tenure: Five key things to know…
- Van Gaal was appointed in 2014 and took charge after guiding the Netherlands’ to a third-place finish at that year’s World Cup.
- He would oversee 103 matches in charge, winning 54 and losing 25 times.
- United finished 4th (2014/15) and 5th (2015/16) under his guidance.
- His only piece of silverware came in the 2016 FA Cup final in the form of a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.
- Van Gaal was succeeded by his former Barcelona assistant coach Jose Mourinho.
United struggled to mount a serious title challenge under the decorated Dutch manager, who succeeded the much-maligned David Moyes, and he was often criticised for his style of play.
A champion at his previous clubs (including Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) Van Gaal, attempted to introduce a new footballing culture at United, but for a multitude of reasons they were unable to carry it out.
Van Gaal, nevertheless, stayed true to his convictions and believes one element he introduced to the Red Devils’ – provoking space – is now a hallmark of the newly-crowned European champions.
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“I saw as Manchester United manager that the quality of the players of [Man] City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal was better,” Van Gaal told The Guardian.
“So what can I do? We were attacking. We were not defending and we were looking for tactical solutions adapted to the level of our players. For example we were provoking space and that was new in England. I think six months ago [Jürgen] Klopp has also seen the light because in former days he was always pressing.
“I have tried because of the speed of [Anthony] Martial and [Marcus] Rashford to provoke space by not pressing immediately but to come a little back, not parking the bus, but to the middle line and then the defenders halfway in our own half.
“Only with AZ did I do that before, also because of the lower level of my players, and of course I adapt to the quality of my players.
“You have to see it. Because I didn’t have the best quality of players, they could not perform the system to attack. For example, when Liverpool have to attack constantly, they have a problem, more a problem than, for example, Manchester City.”
Pressed on why, Van Gaal added: “Because [Mohamed] Salah, [Roberto] Firmino and [Sadio] Mané need a bigger space than [Sergio] Agüero, [Leroy] Sané and [Raheem] Sterling and also the creativity in City’s midfield is higher with [Kevin] De Bruyne, David Silva, Fernandinho and Bernardo Silva – they can play in a small space. That’s why City are the champions.”
Short, but not so sweet
Van Gaal took charge of 103 matches during his spell as Manchester United manager.
He registered 54 victories, giving him a 52% win rate, but lost a total of 25 times. Under him the Red Devils scored 159 goals (1.54 per game) and conceded 101 (one every 91.8 minutes).
Van Gaal was praised for giving a number of academy graduates their senior professional debut, most notably Marcus Rashford, but ultimately failed to win over the Old Trafford faithful.
His only piece of silverware was the 2016 FA Cup as United defeated Crystal Palace 2-1 at Wembley.