Van Gaal remained at AZ to begin a coaching and management career where the characteristics of fluent passing, talented youngsters being given a chance and canny tactics through a high attention to detail have remained to great effect at the highest level of the global game.
After leaving AZ, van Gaal's coaching education continued under the legendary Leo Beenhakker at Ajax, who he succeeded as first team boss in 1991. The club's fortunes had dipped since the golden era of the 1970s, but under van Gaal Ajax secured three consecutive Eredivisie titles and the UEFA Cup. But more importantly they delivered European Cup success, in its new guise as the Champions League, returning the trophy to the club for the first time in over 20 years.
A side containing future United star Edwin van der Sar, the De Boer brothers, Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert overcame AC Milan in Vienna, and after this success it was inevitable that van Gaal would be linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe. He eventually succeeded Bobby Robson at Barcelona in 1997, and after inheriting a set-up that included Jose Mourinho on the coaching staff, his new side won La Liga in his first season in