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And Ribéry still to come…

Van Gaal pleased with team’s progress

As so often, Louis van Gaal was the loudest presence on the Bayern training ground on Sunday. The coach watched intently as his men worked out, a stopwatch and whistle hung from his neck, his hands deep in the pockets of his red winter jacket. At certain points, he withdrew his hands to gesticulate and illustrate his cries of praise, criticism and explanation. The Dutchman is the undisputed leader – and the team are following him.

“After two weeks, any team works out whether their coach is useless or actually has some idea of the game,” said Christian Nerlinger, “right from the start, our players recognised this is a man who can build and develop a team.” That was exactly the task Van Gaal faced in the first six months after his arrival in Munich.

Five players, or pretty much half a team, who were in the line-up for Friday’s meeting with Hoffenheim, did not feature in the last match of last season, namely Robben, Gomez, Olic, Badstuber and Müller. Bayern are also playing a very different style of football now. “There’s a massive difference. There’s a structure, and it’s clear how we intend to play,” reasoned Philipp Lahm.

Development process

Naturally, it required time for the process of change to bear fruit. “The Bundesliga and the team were completely new to the coach, and there were new things for us as players too,” recalled Jörg Butt, “there was a process to go through.”