• World Cup

Robben hails 'magic' Van Gaal

ESPN staff
July 7, 2014
Change of fortune for Louis van Gaal?

A clutch of Netherlands players, including star forward Arjen Robben, have told Manchester United they are getting a "magic" and "perfect" manager in Louis van Gaal.

Van Gaal switched goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul in the 120th minute, a decision that paid dividends when the Newcastle stopper saved two Costa Rica penalties in the shootout to set up a semi-final showdown with Argentina.

While the move sparked mixed reactions, those closest to Van Gaal were never in any doubt about their manager's tactics.

Stuivenberg joins United

Stuivenberg will start immediately © Getty Images
  • Manchester United have appointed Netherlands Under-21s coach Albert Stuivenberg as assistant coach to Louis van Gaal.
  • Stuivenberg, who led the Dutch Under-17 team to victory in the European Championships in 2011 and 2012 before taking up his most recent role in the Netherlands' youth set-up, is already in Manchester to start work alongside assistant manager Ryan Giggs.
  • Van Gaal will fly straight from the World Cup in Brazil to take charge of United on their pre-season tour of the US and has already brought in Frans Hoek and Marcel Bout as he continues to build his backroom team.

Robben, who once again put in a twinkle-toed performance despite claiming to have been "rugby tackled" by the Costa Rica players throughout, said: "We have a superb trainer, a coach who works magic like this all the time.

"Nobody knew about what he was going to do, apart from one goalkeeper."

Former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, who along with Robben, Robin Van Persie, and Wesley Sneijder held his nerve in the 4-3 shootout win, added of Van Gaal: "He prepares for everything. The coach speaks with everyone, discusses the systems, so we all know we will be ready when something happens.

"This is the power of the manager. It is not easy to create a team like this, but if you want to do something, you have to go in the same direction and he is the perfect manager to make that happen."

Van Gaal's goalkeeper switch was not the first time his tactics had come under scrutiny at this World Cup, with the Dutch manager using a second-half water break in the last-16 tie against Mexico to change his side's formation before turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.

"You've seen his CV," said midfielder Nigel de Jong. "He is a fantastic coach and over the years he has got a lot of experience in these situations.

"That reflects also on the group. If he is calm, and if somebody from the group makes the right decisions you can take it over easily. He is just one of a kind, in his way of working and especially the tactical discipline he has got for the team. But the tactical changes he makes in games is a new experience for me."

Meanwhile, Van Gaal has revealed that he allowed "leaders" Van Persie and Kuyt to have their say.

"If a player says something it hits more than if I do," the 63-year-old said. "Robin and Dirk gave great speeches. That was fantastic but I've felt this since we got together and became a unit at the training camp in Portugal.

"So I don't need to check on them, at all. They know exactly when they have to take their responsibilities. It's not about me or the staff but taking responsibility. This is an incredibly strong group."

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