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Dominant but fatherly

Van Gaal: Right man, right club, right time

France is famous for its wines, but Louis van Gaal stuck to his principles late on Tuesday and toasted his greatest achievement at FCB so far, his side’s march to the Champions League final, with a glass of his favourite Rioja, from neighbouring Spain. The same Van Gaal earlier told his men, celebrating in the dressing room at Stade Gerland: “Remember Bochum!” FCB meet VfL in the Bundesliga on Saturday, and the title is far from safe yet.

Van Gaal took the Munich helm on 1 July last year, declaring his immediate attachment to all things Bayern: “Mir san mir! We are who we are! And I am who I am: confident, arrogant, dominant and honest, a workaholic, innovative, but also warm and family-friendly. That’s why I think I’ll fit in."

Fresh from leading AZ Alkmaar to a stunning title triumph in his home country, the new boss outlined his “holistic principles. I don’t see players who simply kick the ball from point A to point B, I see humans who react to their surroundings.” Training was “more to do with the brain than the feet,” and the process of creating the FCB he wanted could take up to two years. Barcelona were the example to aim at – and, he warned, the first few change-filled months could be problematic.

So it came to pass. Bayern failed to win their first three league fixtures, as Van Gaal’s philosophy of short passing and strict positional discipline took time to bite. The coach, stopwatch in hand and with a whistle round his neck, was the dominant figure in training, issuing both praise and criticism.

Patchy start

By mid-November, FCB were on the brink of exiting the Champions League after two defeats to Bordeaux, and were seventh in the Bundesliga, six points off leaders Leverkusen after 13 matches. But the team started winning, and Munich were top of the league by late February.