Tuesday 23 January 2018

John Giles: Van Gaal and Mourinho are the alpha males of Premier League

Mourinho and van Gaal carry natural authority while Pellegrini looks beaten

Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal
Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal, right, prefers to deal privately with Jose Mourinho, right

TOP managers can achieve a great deal through force of personality and we have two great examples of that in the Premier League.

Love them or loathe them, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal carry the alpha male gene.

It struck me watching Mourinho and the Dutchman over the weekend how they approach everything with such certainty, right or wrong.

Mourinho all but stitched up the Premier League title against QPR and while I'm never one to attribute too much to a coach, the goal Cesc Fabregas scored to nail all three points was the direct result of the Chelsea manager's ferocious will to win.

Mourinho name-checks Alex Ferguson all the time but he could throw around a half dozen names who all shared the same trait; an iron will to win and the ability to bring a group of men with them.

Put alongside a military man in battle or something much more serious like that, a football manager's ability to inspire those around him is meaningless but for the billions who love our game, one man's mission in life can become all-consuming.


Ferguson was definitely like that and won a legion of followers and I don't just mean supporters, fans of Manchester United. His name will be spoken will reverence at Old Trafford for as long as the club exists.

It is very difficult to quantify how Ferguson did what he did or how Mourinho wins over the players he works with to the point where they will die for him.

Only those who lived through it and worked with Ferguson over an extraordinary era will know and even they won't have the whole picture.

It is really only when things go wrong that you see the flip side of the equation and realise how hard it must be to deal with a big football club under the most savage pressure.

Football may be 'just' a sport but there are few environments which can strip a man bare, as seems to be happening to Manuel Pellegrini at the moment.


His personality is mild and when Manchester City won the title last season, he was almost apologetic about it.

I'm sure that wasn't the reality at all and he was a very happy man indeed underneath his modest exterior. But he projects an evenness which may appeal to those of us who like our managers to talk less and do more but doesn't cut it in the media world.

By the look of Manchester City at the moment, he's not getting his point across in the dressing room either and anyone who has ever played the game will tell you that players will sense weakness in a coach quicker than anyone else.

If the manager in question cannot regain his authority and the respect he must have to function, evidence will soon appear in the performances on the pitch.

I think that is what we are seeing with Manchester City now.


Pellegrini doesn't look like a man in control; and like it or not, image does count.

It helps that Mourinho and van Gaal a great deal that they have natural authority.

In the Dutchman's case, it makes him sound like he knows what he's talking about even if he has stretched credulity more than once since he took the job at Old Trafford.

He was spoofing for quite a while but he was able to carry it off and now that he has a way to play and some momentum, he gathers even more stature to himself.

I'll bet that bookmakers will be taking a lot of money on Manchester United to win the title next season and van Gaal's overriding self-confidence will have a lot to do with that.


Naively, I used to believe that football knowledge should be enough for an manager to achieve success but I realised pretty quickly that there was an awful lot more to management which had nothing to do with the game itself.

That's why I admire Mourinho and van Gaal for their ability to find space within all the madness to lead their players in a common purpose and make them believe that they are good enough to win a title.

I hardly need to say at this stage that Mourinho's dark side often turns my stomach and van Gaal's bombastic character takes a bit of getting used to.

But I tip my hat to both of them, despite those reservations. They are able to do all they do and somehow, still find a way to put 11 players on the pitch who believe that can win a football match.

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