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Inside Louis Van Gaal's San Jose Press Conference

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Van Gaal calls Chris Smalling "Mike" and talks about San Jose players being 8 inches taller than Man Utd players

Luke James / Center Line Soccer

EPL giants Manchester United are in town and head coach Louis Van Gaal gave a press conference last night at Avaya Stadium ahead of their game against the Earthquakes. Alongside Mr. Van Gaal on the podium was Manchester United and England international center back Chris Smalling.

To mark the occasion journalists with English accents seem to have come out of the woodwork; as opposed to those of us who’ve lived here the last 27 years and are frantically trying to cling onto our English accent, because it gets us stuff.

After the introductions had been made and the procedure for questioning explained there ensued a slightly embarrassed silence. Perhaps everyone gathered was remembering some of those Louis Van Gaal press conference eviscerations that litter the Internet.

Van Gaal looked at Smalling and shrugged, Smalling smiled uncomfortably, and eventually a brave journalistic soul spoke up.

The first question was about the fitness of David de Gea and Antonio Valencia, and Van Gaal said that the injuries were minor but that they wouldn’t play against San Jose.

When asked about new players coming into the United team the Dutch head coach spoke about having to wait and see how new players would fit into the team. He said this was because the rhythm and pressure on the ball was faster in the English Premier League than in any other.

When asked whether he was worried about Wayne Rooney sustaining an injury by playing in a testimonial game a week before the beginning of the English Premier League season Van Gaal shrugged and said that Rooney could just as easily fall downstairs.

Van Gaal did go so far to state that he had long-term expectations of Chicharito playing with Manchester United. But if you watch any of Louis Van Gaal’s previous press conferences there are two things that he refuses to talk about: player transfers, and anything else involving the process of the club. He makes it clear over and over again that a club is not a static thing but a process that is undergoing constant revision.

It’s quite understandable that whereas the press and the fans want to know what Mr. Van Gaal’s plans are, so do all the opposing head coaches in the English Premier League. Van Gaal is hardly likely to let them know what he’s up to. He did go so far as to possibly deny the fact that Manchester United were trying to sign Muller from Bayern Munich but even that wasn’t a definite statement as he added things could change in the process.

Chris Smalling talked about his recent good form and said he was happy with that but also pointed out that, despite recently signing a long-term contract, there were always other players at clubs like Manchester United competing for your spot on the team. Smalling said would have to continue to work hard to keep his place in the starting eleven.

There was a moment of hilarity when, in praising Wayne Rooney’s abilities as captain, Van Gaal mentioned that vice-captain was Michael Carrick, and then referred to Chris Smalling as “Captain #3 Mr. Mike Smalling". “Chris” said a hesitant voice from the press and the whole room cracked up with laughter. Van Gaal smiled, clapped Smalling on the shoulder by way of apology, and got back to business.

What is it about visiting head coaches harping on about the San Jose Earthquakes players being taller than their players, or in the case of the Toluca head coach even going so far as to accuse San Jose of being too tall?

Louis Van Gaal said the difference between Manchester United and the San Jose earthquakes was 20 cm (7.8 inches). He actually stated that every player was 20 cm taller. Surely not. This he said made defending corner kicks and set pieces from San Jose a more dangerous proposition than against Club America.

Van Gaal added that, whereas he thought Manchester United played at a higher level than the San Jose Earthquakes, the Quakes were game fit and Manchester United were not yet at that stage. He also mentioned the difference in playing style and formation between San Jose and Club America, saying that he was pretty sure the Quakes would play 4-1-4-1.

My question to Louis Van Gall was:

“You mentioned that you’d sold 17 players since you took over. How has the role of the manager changed in the 24 years that you’ve been a manager. How is it different now than when you started?

LVG: “That is dependable of the club where you work and how the structure is, how the organization has been installed. So every club has its own structure and culture. I think that’s also great. But of course my philosophy is not always the same philosophy of the club. So I have to adapt always. You didn’t expect that, that I should say this but it’s like that. I have to adapt.”

And then the sometimes terrifying Mr. Van Gaal actually smiled and the press conference was over.

The San Jose Earthquakes play Manchester United at Avaya Stadium Tuesday July 21, kickoff 8 PM. TV Fox Sports 2.