Not many will think of Wednesday's League Cup meeting between Manchester United and Ipswich Town at Old Trafford to have any significant bearing in regard to the two managers. Mick McCarthy and Louis van Gaal are miles apart in terms on any scale of measurement in world football but there is an anecdote that makes the handshake between the two managers on Wednesday worth a TV moment.
Back in September 2001, the Republic of Ireland and Holland were due a face off in a straight shoot-out for the a final berth at the World Cup due in Korea/Japan the following year. Pre-match, Louis van Gaal suggested that McCarthy was likely to be sacked in the event of a Dutch victory.
McCarthy responded in his World Cup 2002 Diary;
''Louis van Gaal is starting to annoy me. he has been quoted on my employment prospects if Ireland lose and he seems none too concerned at the prospect of Ireland sacking their manager and me losing my job. That disappoints me. There is no need for Louis van Gaal to get involved in Irish football politics. Hopefully we can wipe the smile off his face.''
McCarthy's team-talk ahead of the game is well documented;
''It's about passionate hearts and calm heads! I'm asking you to give me the opportunity to walk up to Louis van Gaal afterwards and say: Unlucky.' Just give me the chance to look him in the eye, shake his hand and say: Bad luck'.''
The then Manchester United captain Roy Keane turned in a powerhouse display in that fixture almost as if he was on a one man mission to salvage his manager's vengeance. From kickoff, Keane went through Marc Overmars with a hard boot that effectively took the soul out of the Dutch team.
Ireland finished that game with 10 men but Louis van Gaal couldn't get any of his four strikers by the end to score. The Irish booked their Korea/Japan ticket, van Gaal returned home to face questions about his philosophy.
In a solemn twist of fate, it was the Iron Tulip that was eventually relieved of his duties. Except that it was to go and manage FC Barcelona. And so it felt like Louis van Gaal had had the last laugh when the two managers met at an airport with the Dutchman heading to Catalunya. McCarthy later remarked and implied that if their roles were reversed, there was not a chance in hell that he would get the Barcelona job after failing at the Irish job or any job for that matter.
It is the difference in stature that still holds the two men apart and it will be no more emphasised than on Wednesday when one will walk into Old Trafford in charge of Ipswich Town and the other in his second year of a three year contract at Manchester United.
On the pitch though, it is McCarthy that has the lead over LVG. No doubt he will be asking his players to give him the same opportunity to walk to van Gaal after the final whistle and twist the knife.
Manchester United have already had their fingers burned in the League Cup by a minnow under van Gaal's reign. Milton K. Dons away last year in the second round remains the Dutchman's darkest day (or night as it were) at the club. Town will be looking to take full advantage of any complacency by their hosts.
LVG on his part has a job to do in terms of selecting a side that will be good enough to represent the club and to rest some of the players that have been a mainstay in the team since the start of the season. Regardless of who he selects, majority of the fans would love to see Andreas Perreira, James Wilson and Jesse Lingard given a chance. The latter two were involved in the U-21s victory over Everton on Monday but shouldn't really preclude them from taking part.
Manchester United might be second in the league, just a brace of points off the summit but it is in the domestic trophies that the club has the highest chance of silverware this season. A post-Sir Alex trophy will go a long way to enabling the club to move away from the old dynasty. It is imperative that the club is seen to make a real push for one this season. Certainly, a home draw in the third round of the League Cup against inferior opposition fits the category of 'must win'.
Labels: LOUIS VAN GAAL, PREVIEWS, THE LEAGUE CUP