Manchester United’s new Dutch boss Louis van Gaal has started his tenure at arguably the world’s biggest club in rather impressive fashion. United are playing attractive football this pre-season, mood around the camp seems to be good and van Gaal himself is speaking incredibly well, providing a much needed confidence boost to most Manchester United fans.
His no nonsense, confident approach was highlighted once again last week after he refused to be drawn into Mourinho-esque pre and post-match mind-games should any manager attempt to suck him into such mental rows. Van Gaal had this to say about the Chelsea boss: “I don’t think I will fall out with him. He is my friend. I don’t think I will fall out with all the other managers. I have full respect for all my colleagues. For me (mind games) are not so interesting. I have to manage my club. That is already difficult enough. I am not concerned with other clubs and other mangers.”
Of course it remains to be seen as to whether Van Gaal will stay true to his word and ignore any mental games from his Premier League colleagues, but he tends to be a man of his word.
In a modern era full of such tactics, it can become incredibly tiresome for the viewer or fan. Yes, Mourinho’s made a career out of it, but is there any evidence to suggest this approach actually works? Mind games are usually brushed off or simply laughed at by most bosses, yet if Jose Mourinho’s team win a game after one of his ‘controversial press conferences’, the media and public tend to refer back to his pre-game, masterful approach with the media, despite there not being any proof that what he’s said has actually contributed anything towards the result, practically taking anything away from his players or his tactics.
I’m of the opinion that once players are on the pitch, no matter what any manager has said prior to kick-off their minds are fully focussed on the task at hand. Of course it makes for great drama and theatre, and without it, football would probably be duller, but there’s no real evidence to suggest a manager who constantly uses mind games actually helps win games. The players, the tactics, the fans loud in voice and a bit luck surely play more of a prominent role?
On top of this, occasionally such planned jibes can come across as a little bit pathetic. I’m not solely referring to Mr.Mourinho here, but even managers in the lower leagues or around Europe attempt to rile the opposition up with the odd comment. It can diminish their reputation, irk the fans and, most importantly of all, come across as slightly pathetic. Occasionally, some comments wouldn’t look out of place in a school playground.
Mind games won’t end, it’s part and parcel of football, but Louis van Gaal’s refusal to be drawn into them highlights not only his confidence in himself and the team, but also suggests he finds them a little bit boring and perhaps pointless. Well Louis, so do I.
By Jerome Hodge – Burnley fan