Two Dutch managers graced the Premier League during the summer with differing expectations and a hugely different hype about their new challenge. Van Gaal came into the Premier League as manager of Manchester United with expectations he would bring United straight back into the Champions League and maybe even have a go at winning the title especially with the money he was afforded. Koeman on the other hand came into Southampton to replace a much loved Mauricio Pochettino, inheriting a team that lost almost all of its key players such as Lallana and Shaw. Remarkably after 22 games in the Premier League Ronald Koeman’s Southampton sit one place above United in 3rd place.
The two Dutch men are now both embroiled in a fight for the top4 and it’s not the first time the two have crossed paths. Both men worked alongside each other at Barcelona from 1998 to 2000 and were reunited in 2004 at Ajax where Van Gaal was given a directors job over Koeman who was the manager. It was here the two famously fell out over the decision by the club to leave Ibrahimovic leave for Juventus a rift that the two are yet to patch up.
The two have already met twice this season, United winning the first meeting 2-1 at St Mary’s in a somewhat fortunate win while just over a week ago Koeman and his Saints side returned the favour seeing off Van Gaal’s side thanks to a late Tadic goal rounding off a great performance by Southampton and consolidating their position ahead of the Manchester side.
The win for Southampton was another big result in a recent run that has seen them pick up 16 points from a possible 18, Manchester United however have picked up just 9 points from their last six games and Van Gaal is beginning to come under scrutiny from fans and the media for their poor performances.
Both men are meticulous planners and pride themselves on a good defence, Southampton have the best defensive record in the Premier League this season having conceded just 16 goals compared to United who have conceded 21. Southampton are also one goal better off than Van Gaal’s men and sit two points clear in the table.
It is nothing short of amazing that a team tipped for relegation at the beginning of the campaign sit in 3rd place after losing so many key players in the summer and are above a Manchester United side who spent well over £100 million during the summer.
One of the main factors that has seen Southampton perform so well this season is their summer acquisitions, Dusan Tadic who they brought in for just £10 million has 3 goals and 8 assists for the season, those stats are better than the £59 million man Di Maria who has scored 3 but has 2 less assists than the Serbian. Other inspired signings such as Pelle who has 8 Premier League goals and Fraser Forster who has 10 clean sheets have been performing above most of United’s signings like Herrera and Rojo who are yet to make any real impact at Old Trafford.
Having come into the job with every expectation from the media that he would easily better what David Moyes did at United, Van Gaal finds himself 3 points better off than where United were last season, maybe not the change he would have liked considering the amount of money spent during the summer. Some questions have been asked as to whether Moyes would’ve been able to do better should he have been giving all the money Van Gaal had at his disposal this summer.
Koeman replaced Pochettino with no real media expectation that he could get the team playing any better than we saw last season but somehow after all the change Southampton are 11 points better off than this time last season. A huge achievement for Ronald Koeman and his side.
The two men may heave already met each other twice this season but this is by no means the end of their rivalry, as we go into the run-in Southampton have proven they are ready to fight all the way to the end to get into the top4 and United will have to match them stride for stride if Van Gaal wants to reach his minimum expectation of bringing Champions League football back to Old Trafford.
photo credit: Robert Hertel via photopin cc