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Soccer-Party animal Van Gaal the perfect fit for United

Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann

May 19 (Reuters) - Dutch coach Louis van Gaal is a man who rarely goes unnoticed and he should feel right at home attempting to following in the massive footsteps of Manchester United club legend Alex Ferguson.

Emotional during victories and resembling a red-hot volcano ready to explode after defeats, the 62-year-old, who was named United manager on Monday, thrives in the spotlight.

"I am a party animal," he shouted into the crowd on Munich's central square after Bayern clinched a league and German Cup double in 2010 and faced Inter Milan in the Champions League final they went on to lose.

A strict disciplinarian with a larger-than-life personality, Van Gaal is in many ways similar to Ferguson who ruled Old Trafford with an iron fist for 26 years before David Moyes's miserable 10 months at the helm.

The Dutchman, who like Ferguson enjoys fine wine, possesses the ability to draw every ounce of talent from his players as he did at Ajax Amsterdam when he won the 1995 Champions League with a squad of young home-grown talent.

He was equally successful domestically at AZ Alkmaar after two spells at Barcelona where he won two league titles and a Spanish Cup before enduring a hapless stint as Netherlands coach in which his team failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

He took over Bayern Munich in 2009 and instantly turned them into champions following a poor season under Juergen Klinsmann.

Bayern raced to the double and the Champions League final in an impressive first season for Van Gaal, who was seen launching what club bosses described as the "new Bayern era under Van Gaal".

Never shy of big statements and irritated when cornered by media, Van Gaal clashed in the second season with players, officials and reporters with equal verve and pizzazz as results went against him and Borussia Dortmund emerged as serious rivals.

Insisting he alone was in charge of anything to do with the team and publicly brushing off suggestions from directors Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, it did not take long for tempers to flare.

Then Bayern president Hoeness accused Van Gaal of "running a one-man-show" and refusing to listen to anything he had to say regarding the team.

"I am what I am and I will not change my personality just because others want it," Van Gaal said of his split with Bayern.

He continued taking swipes at Bayern after his departure, saying it was he who had laid the foundations for last season's treble under his successor Jupp Heynckes and the appointment of former Barcelona player and coach Pep Guardiola.

"Only Louis van Gaal can say something like that," Hoeness snapped back.

"Van Gaal's problem is not that he's God, but he's God's very own father. Louis was already there before the world even existed. The world does not work they way he looks at it."

Big ego or not, Van Gaal may be exactly the type of character success-spoilt United have been looking for since Ferguson's departure.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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