Manchester United named Netherlands national team coach Louis van Gaal to succeed David Moyes as the record 20-time English soccer champion seeks to bounce back from this season’s slump.
Van Gaal, 62, who’s preparing for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, will take over as manager on a three-year contract after the tournament, United said. Ryan Giggs, who oversaw the final four games of the season after Moyes was fired, will be assistant manager after retiring yesterday as a player.
Van Gaal spent most of his playing career with Sparta Rotterdam before becoming one of the world’s top coaches. He won league titles with Ajax, Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich and led Ajax to victory in the 1995 Champions League final.
“It was always a wish for me to work in the Premier League,” Van Gaal said in a team statement yesterday. “To work as a manager for Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, makes me very proud.”
He added that he’d managed previously in games at United and knew “what an incredible arena Old Trafford is and how passionate and knowledgeable the fans are. This club has big ambitions, I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.”
Van Gaal is in his second tenure with the Netherlands national team, leading the squad to nine victories from 10 games in its World Cup qualifying group. His first stint was less successful as the nation failed to reach the 2002 tournament. This year’s event ends July 13.
“In Louis van Gaal, we have secured the services of one of the outstanding managers in the game today,” United’s Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward said. “He has achieved many things in his career to date and Old Trafford provides him with a fitting stage on which to write new chapters in the Manchester United story.”
Van Gaal faces the task of restoring the glory years to United, which enjoyed an unprecedented run of success under Alex Ferguson, who quit as coach in May last year.
Ferguson’s 38 trophies in 26 years included 13 Premier League titles, five F.A. Cups, four League Cups and two Champions Leagues. United was also twice runner-up in Europe’s elite club competition.
Moyes, 51, had been in charge less than a year when he was fired April 22 after the reigning champion’s worst-ever Premier League season. It was in seventh place at the time after 11 defeats from 34 games, and had exited the F.A. Cup in the third round, the League Cup in the semifinals and the Champions League in the quarterfinals. The team went on to finish seventh in the Premier League.
United’s slump meant it failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years, an absence that will hurt its finances. On a May 15 conference call, Woodward estimated that missing European competition would cost the club in the “mid-30 million” pounds and said the team would go into the player transfer market to get back into the elite tournament.
The fourth-richest European soccer team based on revenue, United had match-day sales of 127.3 million euros ($174 million) last season, 35 percent more than London-based Premier League competitor Chelsea, according to international accounting company Deloitte LLP.
United is using what Woodward calls a “scalpel, not a spade” approach to snagging sponsors from Chile to Vietnam. Since the Glazer family -- Americans who also own the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- took over in 2005, United has set up commercial offices in London and Hong Kong. FC Barcelona followed United last year by agreeing to rent a Hong Kong office.
Some of the newest sponsors in United’s 35-company portfolio -- South Korean food company Ottogi Corp. and Thai confectionery maker European Food Public Co. -- were announced in April.
United had gross debt of 356 million pounds at the end of last year, down 2.7 percent from a year earlier. The team was debt-free before the Glazers bought it in a leveraged takeover.
Dutchman Van Gaal is renowned for his self-belief and fiery temperament and fell out with the hierarchy at Bayern Munich, his last club post, before being fired in 2011.
“Van Gaal’s problem is not that he’s God but he’s God’s very own father: Louis was already there before the world even existed,” former Bayern president Uli Hoeness said last year. “If you look at the world from that perspective, as Van Gaal does, it’s hard to see what the world really looks like.”
While Van Gaal and Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti had been the bookmakers’ favorites for the United post, 40-year-old Giggs was also seen as a potential successor because of his playing pedigree and popularity with the fans.
Giggs said he’s “thrilled” with his appointment as assistant manager. “Louis van Gaal is a world-class coach and I know I will learn a lot about coaching from being able to observe and contribute at such close quarters.”
Giggs appeared in a United club record 963 matches, and up to this season was the only player to have scored in every campaign since the Premier League started in 1992-93. He didn’t get a goal in 22 appearances in 2013-14.
During his four-game interim reign, Giggs was assisted by former teammates Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville. He oversaw wins over Norwich and Hull, a defeat to Sunderland and a draw with Southampton.
“Manchester United has been a huge part of my life and I’m delighted to be able to continue that relationship in such a key role,” he said.
Moyes was picked by Scottish compatriot Ferguson to succeed him at Old Trafford in May last year, and was given a six-year contract. At the time, Ferguson called on supporters “to stand by the new manager.”
In 11 years at Everton, Moyes had achieved regular top-half finishes without winning a trophy at a club that lacked the financial resources of billionaire-owned United, Manchester City and Chelsea.