London: Newly-appointed manager Louis van Gaal wants to put Manchester United back at the top of English football as soon as possible, he said on Tuesday.
“My ambition is to have them back at the top where they were in the years of (Alex) Ferguson,” he told reporters in Amsterdam as he flew out to Portugal with the Dutch national squad for training camp.
“I have always had a winning mentality and will find a system to make sure we are not beatable. They are hoping I can do it in my first season. I did it in Spain (with Barcelona) in my first season and I think I can do it in England too. I think it is a difficult task but a fantastic challenge.
“At such a big club it is always going to be difficult but I’m very happy to have the chance. I said last October that I’d like to coach in England but I never thought it would be with the biggest club in the world.”
The 62-year-old Van Gaal said he was already in deep discussion over new signings for next season but refused to confirm he had been handed a considerable budget to strengthen the team after a disappointing season.
“I’ve haven’t talked to them (the club) about money, only over the players that I would like to have and those that may leave,” he said. Asked whether his first signing might be Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman, who will miss the World Cup because of a knee injury, he added: “That’s for you to ask and me to know.”
Van Gaal hinted at his frustrations over recent weeks, as mass media speculation about his move to Old Trafford had to be met with unconvincing denials. “It’s a process and I couldn’t tell what was happening. I found it frustrating because for several weeks I have had to peddle ‘no’s’ when I am, in general, usually open hearted,” he said.
The World Cup-bound coach, who last year announced his decision to quit the Dutch job after the tournament in Brazil, said the process of signing for United had been relatively quick.
“It didn’t take very long. I was approached directly after the sacking of (David) Moyes. I have negotiated much longer with other clubs.”
He said he had already had intensive discussions with his new club over his coaching staff, the playing squad, the pre-season preparations and the youth development set-up at the club.
Van Gaal said he had sent a text message to family and friends 30 minutes before Monday’s announcement, including one to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, his former assistant in Spain.
“He was the first who responded. He said he was jealous of the list of clubs that I have worked at,” said Van Gaal, who first coached Ajax Amsterdam and has worked at Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich and won the Dutch title with unfashionable AZ Alkmaar in 2009.