Manchester United’s new manager Louis van Gaal has warned that the board’s commercial ambitions may not be compatible with the success demanded at what he deems “the biggest club in the world”.
United have led the way in monetising their appeal, as illustrated this week by a £750m, 10-year kit agreement with Adidas, the biggest of its kind in any sport. Yet despite such deals affording him spending power, Van Gaal used his first public appearance in the job to hint that commercial obligations are a potential area of behind-the-scenes conflict.
“It’s the biggest club of the world. In two days I know already how important Manchester United is,” said Van Gaal, who has won league titles in Holland, Spain and Germany.
“I have to prepare a team and I have to adapt. I will do my utmost. It will not be easy, but when you see my career, you can see what I’ve won. The future will show if I can do that again.
“I’ve met a lot of people and when you see that kind of people who love the club, it’s a big family. They expect a lot of me, they are very excited to meet me, but can I fulfil that expectation? I think I can, but because of the greatness of this club, it’s also much more difficult than at another club.
“This club is also guided in the commercial way, and we have to fulfil that also, and it is not always possible to fulfil the commercial expectations and the football expectations. That is my big challenge I think.”
Van Gaal, who led Holland to the semi-finals of the World Cup last week, dodged suggestions that a top-four Premier League finish was a minimum requirement in his first season.
“First I have to see how quickly the players can pick up my philosophy,” the 62-year-old added. “I haven’t worked with most of them and it is very important that there is a click between the players and the manager. For me, the challenge is always first and not fourth.”
Midfielder Michael Carrick had surgery yesterday on an ankle injury that is set to keep him out until October, while Van Gaal said he would take “three to four weeks” before deciding if the squad needed reinforcing.
He revealed that former United midfielder Nicky Butt would be part of his coaching team, and said roles for fellow stalwarts Paul Scholes and Phillip Neville were still to be decided.