Louis van Gaal has questioned whether Manchester United are “too big a club” for their own good as he outlined his concerns that commercial demands could hamper the team’s success. Ed Woodward will seek a compromise with the manager over lucrative overseas tours.
Woodward is insistent that United’s commercial commitments should not have an impact on Van Gaal’s work, with the executive vice-chairman clear the manager’s demands for the side will always take priority. Van Gaal has complained that long travelling times and jet lag are disrupting his preparation of the team on their current trip to the United States.
The Dutchman is with the squad in California on the first leg of United’s 17-day tour, which will feature at least four matches, the first of which is on Wednesday evening, Pacific Time, against LA Galaxy in Pasadena. He told MUTV: “Maybe it is too big a club. Not only in a sporting sense but also commercially. We have to do a lot of things that normally I don’t allow. I have to adapt to this big club but I think also this big club has to adapt to Louis van Gaal. I hope we can have some balance to that.”
Van Gaal’s complaints come despite this tour being a maximum 13,471-mile round trip, if United reach the final in Miami on 4 August. Last summer, when United toured Australasia, the club made a 24,000-mile round trip and in 2012 they covered 22,000 miles when visiting Durban, Cape Town, Shanghai, Oslo and Gothenburg.
At Tuesday’s pre-game press conference Van Gaal aired his concerns , saying: “We have to prepare the season and when you have commercial activities and dreadful distances, having to fly a lot and the jet lag, it is not positive for a good preparation.” Van Gaal said he hoped next summer’s tour, the destination of which is to be decided, will be shorter.
Woodward, who is no longer on the tour because of work commitments, argues that United cannot ignore the potential of the US. Speaking on Monday, before Van Gaal’s comments, Woodward said: “America and Asia are the two core places we tend to go to and both of them deliver a huge amount. The Premier League has been very clear in saying America is the No1 developing market.
“It may be strange to describe the US as a developing market but if you look at the stats from the World Cup, the NBC numbers were two and a half times the previous Fox and ESPN [World Cup] numbers and despite finishing seventh we were the No1 most watched team [on US TV].
“This is a very good country [for us] from a potential sponsorship perspective, a potential media perspective. We’ve got more fans here than we have in the UK.”
Woodward indicated that Van Gaal would be listened to. “The facilities in the US are excellent,” he said. “The core of the tour is preparation for the season. That remains the core. That is the central part.
“One of the things we will do differently on this tour is sit down with Louis very early [so he can] tell us how he wants the tour to be constructed. He will give us the skeleton of the tour. We will discuss that [where United go next] with him.”
Wayne Rooney said that the fan base in America was growing, when speaking on Sirius FM. “It’s been a massive change since the first time we came here with the team,” he said. “Every time we’ve come back it’s grown and grown.”
Van Gaal also said that it would be months before he would know whether United’s seventh place last season under David Moyes and then Ryan Giggs was an underachievement.
“I cannot judge that because I am also new in the Premier League and when you see the Premier League there are also a lot of clubs capable of playing higher-level football and also the financial situation for the clubs in the Premier League,” he said. “They have much more chance to buy players – much more than, for example, the Dutch teams. To be the champion in the Premier League is much more difficult than in the Netherlands or Germany. Because in Germany you don’t have so much money as in the Premier League to give money out. I have to wait three or four months and give you a clearer answer.”
Paul Scholes has not burned his bridges with United despite his public criticism of Rooney and Woodward, and the executive is hopeful he can have a role at the club. Scholes was employed on an ad hoc basis as a coach by Giggs during the Welshman’s temporary, four-match tenure as manager at the end of last season.
At the end of May Scholes wrote in a column that Woodward “has an awful lot to prove this time that he’s good enough at his job” and stated of Rooney: “There’s a chance he’s worn out. Wayne’s peak may have been a lot younger than what we’d expect of footballers traditionally.”
However, the executive wants a role for Scholes should it suit him and Van Gaal, who has yet to offer anything concrete.