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Man United’s Backroom Boys.


Louis van Gaal’s coaching team.

So much is known about the pedigree of Man United’s assistant manager Ryan Giggs, but not that much is known in England about the others who work under Louis van Gaal. Here I will try and shed some light on the men who have the ear of the Dutch maestro.

Albert Stuivenberg. Assistant coach.

Stuivenberg was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1970 and played professional football for SC Telstar and HFC Haarlem. He was forced into premature retirement in 1989 due to torn cruciate ligaments. Following the forced ending to his playing career Albert moved into coaching with Feyenoord where he spent the next 13 years.

His next coaching position after leaving Feyenoord in 2004 was at the Al Jazira Club of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. His role was to head up their youth system. He spent two years coaching in the Middle East then he was offered a chance to return to the Netherlands to coach the national team under-17’s. He twice led the youth team to victory in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, in 2011 and 2012. This success lead to his promotion to manage the under-21s in 2013.

He joined United In July 2014 while Louis van Gaal was on World Cup duty in Brazil, and immediately set about working alongside Ryan Giggs in the coaching of the first team.

Frans Hoek. Goalkeeping coach.

Hoek was born in Hoorn, Holland in 1956. He started as an amateur goalkeeper at SV Always. He then played in goal at FC Volendam for more than a decade. In 1977 he achieved top flight football for the first time in the club’s history.

However, two seasons later they were relegated. In 1983 they regained promotion for the second time only to go down yet again in 1985. That’s when Frans decided to quit playing and consequently moved into coaching.

As a goalkeeping coach he worked at the top football clubs in Europe including Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He also helped out the Netherlands and Poland national teams.

Some of the keepers he has coached is an impressive list of number 1’s who’s who including former United favourite Edwin van der Sar, Stanley Menzo, Vítor Baia, Pepe Reina, Robert Enke, Lukasz Fabiariski, Thomas Kraft, Michel Vorm and new Red Devil Victor Valdes.

He worked closely with Louis van Gaal when he became manager at Ajax in 1991, and then followed him onto Barcelona an 1997. In 2000 he helped van Gaal with the the Netherlands national football team but returned to Barcelona two years later.

Hoek became the Polish team coach for four years which took in the 2006 World Cup Finals. In 2010 van Gaal came calling again, this time with a position to coach at Bayern Munich. At Bayern, Hoek had the duel role of goalkeeping and assistant coach.

When van Gaal left the Budesliga club to manage the Dutch national team for the second time it was only natural that Hoek went with him. Together they guided the Netherlands to the 2012 Euro Championships and of course the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.

Hoek again teamed up with van Gaal again at Manchester United in the summer of 2014, replacing Chris Woods as the club’s chief goalkeeping coach.

Jos van Dijk. First-team fitness coach.

Jos van Dijk was born in Utrecht, Holland in 1957. (Not to be confused with Dutch player 1970’s Jan van Dijk.)  He has worked very closely with Louis van Gaal since his days at AZ Alkmaar following him to work at Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national team.

Eventually he moved to Old Trafford replacing Tony Strudwick in 2014 as a training physiologist in the summer of 2014.

In his role at United, he uses his experience as a member of the technical staff to coordinate with the medical and sports science departments daily. His main responsibility is the monitoring and analysis of the players’ fitness based on training and statistical data. It’s then up to van Dijk to pass all the information onto van Gaal in order for the manager to make decisions around training and individuals.

Marcel Bout. Chief opposition scout.

Bout was born in Haarlem, Holland in 1962.  Bout has worked at various clubs including  Feyenoord, FC Volendam, AZ Alkmaar, SC Telstar, FC Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national football as a coach and advisor.

Bout is another close cohort of Van Gaal’s having worked alongside the Dutch coach during his spell with AZ Alkmaar, which yielded the ‘Eredivisie’ championship success in 2009.

He joined van Gaal at Bayern Munich the following year where he largely worked as a match analyst, scouting their future opponents.

When van Gaal left Bayern, Bout remained with the Bavarianas in the role of assistant manager under head coach Andries Jonker then Jupp Heynckes. He left Germany in 2012 to become an assistant coach, technical analyst and scout with the Netherlands national under-21 football team.

Bout joined Louis van Gaal at Manchester United in the summer of 2014, becoming the assistant coach specialising in opposition scouting.

Max Reckers. Performance analyst.

Reckers was born in Eindhoven, Holland and is the youngest of the staff. He is known by his manager and colleagues as the ‘whizzkid’ of the coaching team.

His role as United’s performance analyst involves collecting and analysing all the players data. Together with the latest technology Reckers is able to provide a minute level of detail on players’ performances during matches. That information is passed on to the coaches and to the players themselves, in a bid to ensure continuous improvement.

He worked at  AZ Alkmaar, Bayern, Ajax and the Netherlands. He is thought of very highly by van Gaal, who often refers to Reckers as ‘like a son’.

There you have it the men most entrusted to Louis van Gaal’s inner circle, the men that have been with him through most of his managerial career and most certainly understand what makes him tick.

Let’s hope they can work their magic to return Manchester United to their rightful place as champions of England and Europe once again.

Miles Dunton.

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Manchester United 2014 Review Part 2.


Hi and welcome back to my review of Manchester United’s 2014.

Part 2: The Louis van Gaal revolution begins.

On the 19th of May 2014, it was confirmed by the club that Louis van Gaal would replace David Moyes as Manchester United manager on a three-year deal. Ending speculation that had surrounded the club since the removal of Moyes.

The appointment of the Dutch coach seemed to generate a very positive feeling among the fans. Social media was buzzing with the news. We all new of his pedigree as a manager, and the success he had brought to his previous sides. Champion at Ajax, Barelona, AZ and Bayern Munich.

He was known as a very strict disciplinarian, but also a manager who brought the best out of his players, players that had nothing but respect for him. Here was the personality that United needed to pick the team up and move them forward.

One question remained though. Was there a place in the new set up for fans favourite Ryan Giggs? Was he even in the plans of van Gaal? The answer quickly arrived. Following a meeting between the two men over in Holland, Giggs was named as the assistant manager. This was a very shrewd appointment by the new manager, as Giggs was not only his link to the history and tradition of United, but most importantly the fans.

There was only one stumbling block to van Gaal joining United straight away, and that was the small matter of him managing the Dutch team at the World Cup in Brazil. The day to day running of the club was left to Giggs and CEO Ed Woodward.

In their first match at the World Cup Holland destroyed Spain 5-1. United striker Robin van Persie scoring the first with a header that seemed to defy gravity, as he started the rout that had United fans drooling with the thoughts of what we could expect from our new manager in the coming season.

While van Gaal was enjoying himself over in Brazil,  back home in Manchester new signings were arriving. Two players that had been rumored to have been courted by Moyes, Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, were unveiled as the first signings under van Gaal. Many people argued that the deals were already in place well before van Gaal’s appointment. However, the Dutchman confirmed that he had given his approval.

Herrera joined from Athletic Bilbao on a four year deal thought to be around £28 million. Luke Shaw’s transfer from Southampton made him the most expensive teenager in the world at 18. Another four year deal at £30 million. The Summer was getting off to a good start.

Holland comfortably won their group at the World Cup by winning all their matches, and  entered the knock out stage. They defeated Mexico and Costa Rica before being eliminated by Argentina in the semi final on penalties. A great performance from the team under van Gaal’s guidance. But now it was time for Manchester United to welcome their new saviour with arms wide open.

There was a small matter of who would be the new club captain under van Gaal. Some were calling for van Persie, highlighting the Dutch connection, others were pushing for Carrick or Rooney. The manager chose Rooney, citing that an English club needed a British player to lead the team. Darren Fletcher was given the role of vice-captain. Which would change to Michael Carrick towards the end of the year, as Fletcher wasn’t getting enough playing time.

At the end of July van Gaal took his team on a pre season tour to the USA. During that time they won all their matches, beating LA Galaxy 7-0 in van Gaal’s first match in charge.

That was followed by victories over Roma and Inter Milan. What a start to his career with United, and better was to come with victories over Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia. That was all the evidence the fans needed to be sure that in the coming season we would be strong competition in the Premier League.

When the team returned to cooler weather back in Manchester there would be more news on the transfer front, and what news it was. Marcos Rojo joined from Sporting Lisbon. A utility defender who could fill in at left back or in the center. Then the big one, Argentine winger Angel Di María bought from Real Madrid on a five-year contract, the £59.7 million fee setting a new record for a signing by an English club, and taking the club’s summer spending to a reported £130 million.

Then on transfer deadline day there were two more additions to the squad. Daley Blind, who had played for van Gaal’s Holland team in Brazil, joined from Ajax to bolster the midfield. The last signing was a coup. Radamel Falcao came to United on a season long loan from AS Monaco. Falcao had had a terrible year with his knee injury, but when fit what a goal scorer.

As the new players came in it was time to say goodbye to a player who had come through the ranks at Old Trafford, Danny Welbeck. He joined Arsenal for a bargain £16 million. Some fans, ex-players and pundits, spoke of the death of United’s soul. This is ridiculous, in the reserves were the likes of James Wilson, who has the pace and eye for goal that we need as back up.

Anyway, who would they rather have, a world class proven striker in Falcao, or a player who in all honesty never lived up to the hype that surrounded him. I never thought Welbeck was up to scratch as a goalscorer, and I for one was not sad to see him depart. This was not a case of van Gaal ripping up the tradition of United’s youth policy, but simply him saying that Welbeck wasn’t good enough for him.

So, on the eve of a new season the stage was set for United to put all the problems behind them, and with a new manager and squad challenge once again for the title. Van Gaal asked the press to judge his progress after three months. After the pre season results, and quality signings, the atmosphere at Old Trafford for the season opener was bouncing with excitement.

Unfortunately, Swansea City hadn’t read the script. Van Gaal lost his first official game in charge, a 2–1 home defeat to the Swans. Then United lost 4–0 to League One side Milton Keynes Dons in the second round of the League Cup. It wasn’t until the fourth match of the league season, a 4–0 home victory over Queens Park Rangers that Van Gaal won his first competitive game.

The main problem to the poor start was down to injuries, especially in defence. The team were already missing the experience of Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra. Also, the players were finding it difficult to adjust to the new system of three at the back and five across the midfield, with wing backs supporting the defence. The philosophies of the Dutch manager were not getting through to the players, but it was early days.

United didn’t have the distraction of the Champions League which meant the team had the luxury of resting between matches. It was not a good sight to see other teams battling it out over Europe without United involved. The main target for the season ahead was to return to the illustrious competition.

After 10 league matches, United were in ninth place with 13 points and two victories, their worst start to the season since 1986–87. They were also suffering from injuries, including to new signings Herrera, Rojo and Falcao. These injuries and suspensions opened the door for two of United’s youngsters to show their qualities. Tyler Blackett, and especially Paddy McNair, were given the chance by van Gaal, and they both performed well. Showing that the youth system was thriving.

United’s first away win of the season came in the capital defeating Arsenal 2–1 at the Emirates Stadium to ascend into a lofty fourth position. The match was a smash and grab win, but a win all the same. This seemed to generate a new found believe within the sqaud, and they embarked on a nine game unbeaten run , 7 wins and 2 draws, right up until the last match of the year at White Hart Lane.
That run included a 3-0 win at home over dreaded rivals Liverpool. The good times were returning.

The last match of the year against Spurs was the first time United had fielded the same eleven players in consecutive games for over two years.

The man of the season so far has to be our No.1 David de Gea, whose performances have been world class. At times his saves have prevented the team from losing. No more so than in the match against Everton at Old Trafford. Not only did he save a Baines penalty, but in injury time athletically got his finger tips to prevent a certain goal attempt by Everton’s Oviedo. United won 2-1. Thanks mainly to him.

With rumours surrounding Real Madrid’s interest, it really is imperative that United get around the table to discuss a new contract for de Gea as quickly as possible to squash any chance of him returning to his homeland.

Two other players that deserve a special mention for their performances are Fellaini and Carrick. Fellaini has looked a totally different player compared to the one who flattered to deceive under Moyes. From a player who looked like his future lay somewhere else to an important cog in the middle of the park alongside Carrick. It’s no coincidence that United haven’t lost a match since Carrick returned from injury. He has shown his class both in midfield and defence.

Ending the year in the top three and unbeaten for two months certainly shows the progress that is being made. Van Gaal has had to cope with an unbelievable amount of players being injured, including the Summer signings, who have all suffered from varying degrees of shoulder, knee, ankle, rib, and pelvis problems. However, once they all return and play together, other teams beware.

There you have it, a year which started and finished poles apart. Twelve months that has ended with the Red Devils riding high where they belong. In a position to challenge for the top honours.

A year in which the supporters had to endure the worst season in the club’s illustrious recent history, fans who also had to put up with the ridicule that came with that, but who never stopped following the team home and away. Getting behind the side through the tough games, and most importantly, never stopped believing that the good times would return once more.

Not so much a phoenix rising from the flames, but more akin to a sleeping giant waking from its slumber ready to trample all over any team that stands in its way.

Roll on 2015.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my Manchester United 2014 year review. Please continue to follow my blogs throughout the remainder of the season.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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Manchester United 2014 Review Part 1.


Manchester United’s last twelve months will be remembered as unremarkable for a club that had enjoyed unparalleled success, year after year, under Sir Alex Ferguson.

A turbulent year that saw United have three managers, players coming in and players going out, The ‘transition’ period of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal’s ‘revolution’, Ryan Giggs’s promotion, retirement, and promotion, one manager calling the dreaded enemy Liverpool the favourites, another beating them. Fans who have had to endure the worst year in the club’s illustrious recent history, who also had to put up with the ridicule that came with that, but followers who never stopped cheering on the team, home and away, through the good but mostly bad times.

Twelve months in which United were unable to finish the season in the top four of the Premier League, therefore failing to qualify for a place at the top table of the Champions League for the first time in some fan’s living memory. A period in which detractors of United enjoyed twisting the knife into a wounded club, and enjoyed all the pain it caused to the real fans.

In part 1 of my review of the year, I will share my thoughts on the period from January up until the end of the 2013-14 season.

The New Year started ominously for Manchester United and the manager David Moyes.

Sitting in a lowly position in the league they lost three matches with the same scoreline 1-2 within the first seven days. Starting with a loss away to Spurs, a home defeat to Swansea, which meant they were out of the FA Cup in the 3rd round, and lastly losing to Sunderland in the 1st leg of the league cup semi-final, eventually exiting the competition in a penalty shoot out.

The mood was lifted by the record signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea. The Spaniard, Chelsea fan’s player of the season for the previous two years, arrived at Carrington training ground by helicopter. The fee of £37.1 million, seemed a little excessive for a player that had been left on the bench by Chelsea coach Mourinho for most of the season. Having said that, here was a quality play maker, and a signing that gave under pressure Moyes some respite. The downside of Mata joining was that he was cup tied for the upcoming Champions League knock out stage matches.

Over the course of the next two months United would lose to Chelsea and Stoke City, draw with Fulham and Arsenal, but even worse was that both Liverpool and Man City came to Old Trafford and both won with the same scoreline, 3-0.

In between that terrible run were the matches against Olympiakos in the last 16 of the Champions League. Falling to a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Greece, United faced an uphill struggle in the return leg at Old Trafford. Needing to overturn the deficit by scoring at least three goals. The team put on a performance reminiscent of the European glory nights of the past under the floodlights of the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Robin van Persie was the hero of the match by completing a brilliant hat-trick as the reds won 3-0 to seal their place in the next round.

However, elation was soon reduced to deflation, as news came of an injury to the team’s star striker. Van Persie, who picked up an injury in the match, would be facing a lengthy time on the sidelines. A huge blow to United and especially Moyes, who had the added problem of trying to beat Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Something clearly was not right at United. The fans started to voice their feelings, even going as far to hire a plane to fly over Old Trafford during the home match against Aston Villa, which displayed the message “Wrong One – Moyes Out”

But United ran out 4-1 winners that day, and Moyes told the press afterwards that he still had the support of the fans. Which clearly he hadn’t.

The team’s Champions League journey, where Moyes had enjoyed his best run of results, came to an end with defeat by Bayern Munich over the two legs, 2-4 on aggregate. Pep Guardiola’s team had given United a lesson in organisation and teamwork. They had too much quality over the two matches. Without the goal threat of van Persie, United didn’t really stand a chance.

The remote possibility of bringing silverware to Old Trafford had gone, which prompted calls by the fans, and the media alike, for Moyes, and more importantly United, to be put out of their misery.
The final straw for Moyes came with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of his former side Everton at Goodison Park, two days later the club announced that the ‘Chosen One’ had been sacked.

When it was revealed that Moyes had been chosen by Ferguson as his ideal replacement back in 2013, a lot of head scratching followed, but everybody to a man, and woman, stood behind his appointment. I believe that it was a step too far up the management ladder for Moyes, who had been at Everton for 10 years but won nothing. He lacked the experience for such a huge task at arguably the biggest club in the world. I do have a little sympathy for his situation, but not too much, as his pockets bulged with a sizeable £5 million in compensation. Not bad for ten months of suffering, not by him but by the fans.

After the departure of David Moyes, it was left to the popular choice of Ryan Giggs to step up and lead United through the remainder of the season, and to try and end it on a positive note. Once in place Giggs immediately called up the help of his friends from the class of ’92, all except David Beckham and Gary Neville. What a sight it must have been at Carrington to see Giggs, Butt, P.Neville and Scholes leading the training sessions.

The boost in the teams morale showed in the first match against Norwich City, in which a rampant United team ran out 4-0 winners. Poor Norwich didn’t stand a chance in a pumped up Old Trafford. The atmosphere was electric, as Giggs strolled down the touchline soaking up the rapturous applause from the home fans. He also looked the part in his club suit, and had an air of authority about him. Not only did the suit fit, but also the position of interim manager suited him perfectly.

The team played with a new found confidence that day, as they seemed to be released from the shackles that had held them back under Moyes. They went on the attack with a free flowing style that even Giggs would have been proud to be a part of, had he not dropped himself!

Another away defeat to Sunderland brought everybody back down to earth with a bump as that wasn’t in the script. The final home match of the season was against Hull City. A match in which Giggs showed that he wasn’t afraid to put faith in the youngsters by giving debuts to James Wilson and Tom Lawrence.

Wilson responded to his inclusion by netting a brace, and proved that United had another future star in the making. United ran out 3-1 winners on a day which would see Ryan Giggs play his final match in the shirt of his beloved Red Devils. His retirement as a player being announced in his after match speech to the Old Trafford faithful.

The last match of the season was a dour 1-1 draw away at Southampton. A match which also saw the end of three stalwarts of United’s defence over the previous decade. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all ending their playing days with United.

United finished a hugely disappointing season empty handed and an embarrassing seventh in the league. There was a feeling of thank god that was over so the rebuilding could begin. The situation the club found themselves in could only improve.

On the 28th of May it was announced that Malcolm Glazer, the patriarch of the Glazer family that owns the club, had died. His sons would continue to run the club.

After the euphoria of Giggs being appointed interim manager, it was still obvious to all that the squad would need an overhaul in the Summer. The biggest question was whether Giggs would be given the ultimate responsibility, or would the club go for a new team manager with the experience in management needed to take on such a big challenge.

Fans were calling for Giggs to be given a crack of the whip, as he clearly had the players support behind him. Realistically though, they knew if the good times were to return to the club quickly, then the appointment of a manager with the personality and knowledge to turn the club’s fortunes around was needed. The hard work had to start again, a new chapter in this great club’s history was about to begin.

The speculation of who it would be was ended on the 19th of May with the announcement that the Dutch national manager, Louis van Gaal, had been offered, and had accepted the illustrious position of Manchester United manager.

The revolution had begun.

To be continued…

Thanks for taking the time to read part 1 of my Man Utd year review.

Part 2 will be available soon.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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