Van Gaal may be a bit slow but he’s definitely the sharpest tool in the box, says Man Utd’s first Dutch player

The first Dutchman to play for Manchester United says the club’s first foreign manager, also from the Netherlands, can succeed if his famously astute mind – rather than his slow legs – comes to the fore.

Arnold Muhren, who played for several seasons at Old Trafford in the 1980s after a successful Uefa Cup-winning spell with Ipswich Town, joined Ajax in the 1970s when Louis van Gaal was also in the early stages of his playing career.

His assessment? Van Gaal was a strategist even then, with no God-given talent but with one heck of a sharp mental edge.

“Louis had a very technical mind with regards to playing football, but he was a little bit slow,” Muhren told United’s website.




“His mind was ahead of his legs, shall we say. He was very good on the ball, he had a good technique, good vision and was good in the air.”

United spent their pre-season flattening all comers but were tripped up on their first game under Van Gaal in this season’s Premier League, though Muhren knows his compatriot will be happier at Old Trafford then elsewhere.

“I spoke to him just before he signed for United at the Dutch cup final between Ajax and Rotterdam. I was having a word with him and he said Spurs were interested in him,” said the 63-year-old.

“But I told him, ‘If you have a chance, you must go to United because it is the biggest and best club in the world’. He hasn’t worked in England, so I know he is looking forward to the challenge.”

England may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for Muhren, it opened his eyes after an excellent spell at Ajax where he won the European Cup.

“If you act normally, you can go around the world and have success. If you are big-headed and think you will show what Dutch people can do, then you will not,” said Muhren.

“When I joined Ipswich in 1978, it was a completely different style of play to what I was used to. I remember Bobby Robson asking me if I enjoyed one of my first matches and I said no, because I only touched the ball four times.

“Thankfully, Mr Robson listened and changed the tactics to more of a continental style, which he deserved a lot of credit for. From then on, Ipswich became a successful team and we had a team full of internationals.

“Van Gaal is doing the same at United.”

High praise indeed, given Van Gaal is in his early days as United coach and especially on the back of the Swansea slip up.




Old Trafford should keep the faith however, says Muhren.

“It will be very interesting to see what Van Gaal can do with this team and the style of play. I am very confident we can be successful, but we have to give the manager time.

“Louis told a Dutch newspaper he has been surprised by how quickly the players have adapted to his methods, so if he can strengthen the squad with one or two new players, then we are in with a shout of achieving success.”

Main image courtesy of Interpolis via YouTube, with thanks.

Related Articles