LONDON, May 19: Louis van Gaal promised to “make history” and return Manchester United to winning ways after being named Monday as manager of “the biggest club in the world”. (Read: Manchester United brings in Louis van Gaal and his ego)
One of the worst-kept secrets within football finally became public knowledge when the Netherlands manager was named as the new boss of the struggling English giants.
United’s record appearance holder Ryan Giggs will be his assistant after announcing he was ending his playing career. (Read: Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs went from pin-up to old master)
Van Gaal, 62, has signed a three-year contract to succeed David Moyes who was sacked in April after a disastrous run of results culminating in failure to qualify for the Champions League.
A disciplinarian who has rarely lacked confidence in his own ability, van Gaal has won domestic titles and cups with Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, Barcelona and Bayern Munich as well as guiding Ajax to Champions League glory.
And he was in no doubt he could enjoy more success in what will be his first job in English football.
“It was always a wish for me to work in the Premier League,” van Gaal explained.
“To work as a manager for Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, makes me very proud.
“I have managed in games at Old Trafford before and know what an incredible arena Old Trafford is and how passionate and knowledgeable the fans are.
“This club has big ambitions. I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.”
However, his duties with the Dutch national side mean van Gaal will not be able to join up with United until after the World Cup in Brazil, which would not be until mid-July if the Netherlands reach the latter stages of the tournament.
Giggs, 40, who was in charge for the final four games of the season after Moyes’s departure, said: “I am thrilled to have the chance to serve as assistant manager.
“Louis van Gaal is a world-class coach and I know I will learn a lot about coaching from being able to observe and contribute at such close quarters,” Giggs, English football’s most decorated player, added.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the club had “secured the services of one of the outstanding managers in the game today”.
“He has achieved many things in his career to date and Old Trafford provides him with a fitting stage on which to write new chapters in the Manchester United story.”
Van Gaal quickly emerged as the favourite to take over at Old Trafford after Moyes was dismissed.
Moyes was the handpicked successor of former United manager Alex Ferguson after his compatriot retired as British football’s most successful boss at the end of last season.
But the former Everton manager struggled to adjust to life at Old Trafford and was sacked less than 12 months into a six-year contract after United failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League — something Woodward reckoned had cost the club in the “mid-£30 millions”.
United finished the season in seventh place and had to watch neighbours Manchester City win the title.
Van Gaal is expected to rejuvenate a squad that looked sluggish last season, with major changes in defence anticipated after the long-established centre-back pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both announced they were leaving the club.
There is also an expectation from United’s US-based owners the Glazer family that van Gaal will restore the importance of the club’s youth system as a conveyor belt for producing first-team talent.
Giggs may have been a product of United’s celebrated ‘Class of 92’ but Moyes was criticised for ignoring the youth team during his brief time at Old Trafford.
Joel Glazer welcomed van Gaal’s appointment by saying: “I am delighted that Louis will be our next manager. He has an outstanding pedigree as a coach, both as a man who motivates his teams to win trophies and as someone who believes in giving young players a chance to prove their worth.”