Is Louis van Gaal really that scary?

Charlie Crowhurst

Ronald de Boer and Steve McClaren have told of Louis van Gaal's strictness and discipline, though members of his current Dutch team have emphasised his sense of humour and 'relaxing' meetings.

The BBC have published some interesting quotes on their website today, which include a rather terrifying assessment of the Red Devils' incoming boss by his former player Ronald de Boer:

He's very strict. When I was young, I was scared of him and feared him a bit.

Fortunately, despite admitting his fear, de Boer wasn't sweating nervously with the flashbacks of a van Gaal grilling. Instead, he de Boer said van Gaal's determination spurred him on:

Everyone knows which direction he is aiming for and everyone will follow that. When he watches, you give a little more effort in what you are doing

The BBC also spoke to former FC Twente coach, Manchester United assistant manager and fluent English-in-a-Dutch-accent speaker Steve McClaren, who echoed de Boer's thoughts:

He is very forthright, he knows what he wants, he knows what he is doing and he is very disciplined. You either love him or you hate him in Holland, he is one of those characters, but he is successful, he gets teams winning and he is experienced at that level.

However, Ajax and current Dutch international Joël Veltman was rather more complimentary about van Gaal's style, quoted in the Mirror as saying:

van Gaal is always talking and communicating with the players. After a meal, he will always have a talk or a chat. I now have a totally different opinion of him. He was portrayed to me as a right bully and that he sees himself as being above the squad.

But, once I was training and playing under him, I found he was a brilliant guy to talk to. He makes jokes and respects every player. He has a good sense of humour - a bit sarcastic - but footballers like that.

... thoughts emphasised by his compatriot Jean-Paul Boëtius of Feyenoord:

[van Gaal] believes it is important to invite players to speak to him about their lives away from the game. I had my big meeting with Mr Van Gaal before the international game against France. I was pleasantly surprised. The meetings with him are quite relaxing.

I am told he has always done this at club and international level. He will ask you questions about your life and about your personality. He wants to know all about your family, your upbringing and what you do in your private life.

It is perhaps this last quote which is the most revealing. Though van Gaal is portrayed -- and perhaps even encourages -- a public perception as a crazy disciplinarian, Boëtius seems to suggest that he isn't as hard on the inside.

Much like José Mourinho, he appears to try and build up an extremely strong rapport with his players, trying to build up an intimate knowledge of their individual personalities. Clearly, outstanding people skills are part of what makes a truly exceptional coach. Mimicking a veteran PE teacher and enforcing brutal discipline alone isn't going to get you van Gaal's CV.

Providing all of United's players are willing to give their all and buy into van Gaal's system, they shouldn't have a problem. That includes you, Wayne Rooney.

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