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Manchester United players buying into Louis van Gaal's philosophy

Manchester United players are finally coming to grips with their manager's football philosophy, according to a new documentary.

In Louis van Gaal: My Life, My Philosophy, shown on Manchester United TV, the Dutchman describes how he always looks to attack and defend in four phases, a tactic he says is finally catching on with his team.

Painting an expectedly positive picture of Van Gaal’s managerial history, despite a chequered start to his time at Old Trafford, the MUTV documentary delves into his past and the exacting demands he makes on his players, with reflections from some of the world’s top footballers including Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Philosophy

Van Gaal has had decades to develop this much-touted philosophy, having recognised early on in his days playing in the Ajax second team that he wasn’t good enough to play alongside clubmates like Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens.

But the 63-year-old was quick to describe how his time on the pitch helped him to take on a role on the sidelines.

"I was a slow player so I had to think very quickly that is why I developed my tactical level that suits me now as a coach,” he said.

"I can transform matches. I knew I wanted to become a trainer-coach and my philosophy starts then at that time. My philosophy is a long story.

"My football philosophy is very important. I like attacking football but you need the players for that and I shall always look to the level of the players, to the quality of the players and where they can play.

"I divide attack into four phases and also defence into four phases. I think the players here know everything about the philosophy now but now they have to perform it."

Tactical nous

It has been a slow-burning campaign at Old Trafford for Van Gaal, but he finally looks to be on track at his new home, with a win over Liverpool pushing United closer to a top-four finish and an all-important Champions League spot.

Current United stars Rooney and Van Persie complimented their boss’s tactical nous and gave some insight into the man behind the clipboard.

Van Persie, who has also played under Van Gaal in the Dutch national team, said the manager made heavy demands of his players.

“To play for him you have to be really fit,” he said. “What he asks from players is not what other coaches ask from other players. He can be emotional and that's what I like. Everyone can have a good day or a bad day and he's no different.”

And Rooney described Van Gaal as having admirable qualities beyond the pitch.

“I think he is someone you can trust,” the United captain said. "That's a really good quality.”

And as Van Gaal's influence grows on the pitch, he beleives he is now earning the support of those who pack his stadium every match.

“The first feeling I had was especially after 11 matches when we had 13 points and I came in the stadium and I thought the fans shall not be pleased,' Van Gaal said.

“The fans rose and clapped me when I entered. Now I see the greatness of the club.”

Barcelona

Van Gaal had two stints at Barcelona, from 1997-2000 and then 2002-2003, winning two league championships and the Copa del Rey once. Despite the media controversy he attracted in his time in La Liga, the players under him said he played a key part in their development.

“He pushed me into the first team at 17,” Xavi said. “He helped me so much through that difficult journey. In my opinion he did not get the credit he deserved at Barcelona. He was a coach who was ahead of his time.”

Iniesta said: "I was 17 years of age and delighted to be in the first team, and he gave me that opportunity. I knew that he had always done tremendous work with the young players. 

“I was excited to work with him and take such an important step in my career. He's hardworking, honest, sincere.”

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