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Van Gaal takes charge at Manchester United

Published On: Jul 17 2014 01:32:35 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2014 01:52:43 PM CDT
Louis van Gaal, Netherlands soccer coach

Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos/Reuters

(CNN) -

Manchester United may have 659 million "followers" -- according to a survey conducted two years ago -- but it's not the biggest club in the world.

That's according to the Red Devils' new manager, Louis van Gaal, who was officially unveiled Thursday only days after guiding the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup in Brazil.

Van Gaal's statement pulled no punches, which is in keeping with the 62-year-old's reputation as being a no-nonsense disciplinarian.

His task is to reverse the fortunes of United, which last season under David Moyes went from the most dominant side in the English Premier League era to one that couldn't even qualify for the often derided Europa League.

"Last year you were seventh so then you are not the biggest club," van Gaal said.

However, United's standing generally wasn't lost on van Gaal, whose resume boasts league titles with three European giants, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax.

In case he needed a reminder of United's stature, United legend Bobby Charlton was there Thursday to greet him.

"It's the biggest club because of how well it's known around the world," van Gaal said. "When I was in China or Brazil, people were talking about United when I was the coach of the Dutch team."

Van Gaal at the helm could be a boon for his compatriot, striker Robin van Persie, who failed to match his first season at Manchester United in 2012/2013, yet he still inherits a team in transition.

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic won't be around in the heart of the defense, nor will marauding left-back Patrice Evra.

But unlike last season's summer transfer window, United at least managed to make two major signings early, landing the coveted 19-year-old Luke Shaw -- he'll replace Evra -- from Southampton and long-term creative midfield target Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao.

Van Gaal wasn't about to forecast United's league position this season.

United finished a staggering 22 points behind champion and city rival Manchester City.

"I will do my utmost best," said van Gaal. "That's what I can give. I cannot give predictions because you never know. It's the biggest club of the world.

"Within two days I know already how important Manchester United is.

"I have to work, I have to prepare a team, I have to adapt to this big club. When you see my career you can see what I have won. That's all I can say.

"The future shall show if I can do that again."

His assistant coaches Albert Stuivenberg and Marcel Bout have already been working with the players in advance of his arrival after the World Cup.

They took the first training session of Thursday along with club legend Ryan Giggs, who was in temporary charge after Moyes' dismissal at the back end of last season.

The retention of Giggs and van Gaal's stated intention Thursday that he would find roles for other former players on the United staff like Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville shows he will not be totally breaking from the past.

But Van Gaal has already suffered an injury blow, as midfielder Michael Carrick sustained an ankle injury in training and will be sidelined for up to 12 weeks.

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