Coaching egos may only be outstripped by those of the players they manage, but the thought of two of the biggest egos in modern football — Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho — teaming up together seems far-fetched.
However, according to Barney Roaney of The Guardian in the U.K., it is a possibility that Manchester United need to take seriously…and he’s not wrong.
Before you go crazy, consider the fact that van Gaal and Mourinho were once a dream team at a world-renowned club once before. That’s right, as Bobby Robson played the role of van Gaal at Barcelona back in the day, Mourinho played the role of Robson’s trusted scout and assistant with a bright future.
As Robson went on his merry way from the Camp Nou, van Gaal teamed up with Mourinho to bring about a sea-change for Barca. The two figured out that the club needed to trust its youth and brought in names like Xavi and Carles Puyol while working together in the late 1990’s.
Van Gaal did it again, introducing some guys named Andrés Iniesta and Thiago Motta during what was to be deemed a failed second stint at the club. That time there was no Jose Mourinho working alongside him though.
What’s the point of bringing this all up now? It’s all about finding a future path to success for the Red Devils.
Van Gaal, for all his faults, has recently begun hitting on the formula that has worked wonders for Manchester United throughout its history — bringing up young players from within.
It’s little wonder that a recent rise in results, including a 3-2 victory over a title-contending Arsenal squad, also happens to come as the team has been forced to go with a youth movement. Whether out of necessity or desire, van Gaal has managed to pick the right young players at the right times to introduce in to Manchester United’s first team.
There’s hope in names like Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay — all of whom have been around most of this season and van Gaal’s era at United. However, the biggest hope for the future comes from within Manchester United’s academy system, and when is the last time Jose Mourinho was about bringing up academy players for a look-see in a major way?
Therein lies the rub of a Mourinho-only management situation. Leaving van Gaal behind the scenes could lead to players ready to contribute to Mourinho’s first teams much quicker than were he to lead this squad on his own.
Let’s just look at what has happened since October under van Gaal.
Jesse Lingaard has become a quasi-talisman for this squad since his insertion against Everton back in October. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has become a bright spot for the future of the Man Utd. defense, and could be the rock of the back line in the not-so-distant future.
Then there’s the crazy recent debut of forward Marcus Rashford. All he’s done in his first two starts up top has been score goals in bunches. His second goal on Sunday against Arsenal harkened back to glory days for the Red Devils, as Lingaard made a spectacular cross in to Rashford, who put it in the back of the net without hesitation.
What was so big about that? Those two players have been Manchester United since the seven and eight years old respectively.
However, does one really believe Jose Mourinho would be interested in coming to Manchester United to work with a team that needs training and patience with a young lineup? That’s where van Gaal comes in to play here.
As the elder-statesman of the two, he can ride off to a role behind the scenes at the club and continue to work these young players, while also helping to scout for the talent that may be needed to bolster this young group.
Mourinho may be more interested in taking the millions that Manchester United can spend and buying up a squad that can win a title immediately. It’s not far-fetched to believe given his nomadic history as the manager and his tenures at both Chelsea and Real Madrid in the past.
Buying up all the talent in the world hasn’t exactly worked out well for the red half of Manchester since van Gaal’s appointment prior to the 2014 season. It’s only been a rash of injuries and a forced youth movement that has proven successful.
Part of it is on the talent Manchester United gets to its academy, part of it is the training and confidence that van Gaal has established in those young players when they get their chances. Keeping him around to keep up that kind of production may not be the worst of ideas, while Mourinho works to shape those already in solid positions in to a title-contending side quickly.
It may be fanciful to consider two of the biggest coaching names teaming up at one of the world’s biggest soccer brands, but it may just be the crazy idea that works if the Red Devils were devilish enough to get it done.
Then again, pigs may fly and the United States may win the World Cup in 2018 too — and we all know the chances of those two things happening.