Yet, on reflection, the Dutchman and his Portuguese successor are not that different. While van Gaal ditched his attacking ethos for safety-first at Old Trafford, Mourinho’s pragmatism is world-renowned.
What van Gaal did do was give youth a chance, signing Anthony Martial when few outside France had heard of him, and giving Marcus Rashford his debut.
Both United youngsters have needed patience under Mourinho, and yet they could be the parting gift van Gaal is ultimately remembered for.
The current United boss may have taken time to realise, but Martial and Rashford are highly effective. They could be outstanding by now, if only Mourinho had trusted them from the outset.
Instead he has signed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez – with varying levels of success. Had van Gaal remained, Martial and Rashford would be a partnership to be feared both domestically and in Europe.
Instead they are only now proving their worth.
They are still young enough to make up for lost time. Martial is in blistering form, while Rashford’s late winner against Bournemouth was a timely reminder of his talent.
Van Gaal may have departed under a slight cloud, but he left United two outstanding young attackers. Mourinho had to sign his own before he realised. But now is the time to give the young duo the chance to shine.
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