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Van Gaal is still "one of the most revered" managers in the game

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Van Gaal hailed as one of the greats
Van Gaal hailed as one of the greats

Louis van Gaal remains one of the most revered managers of the modern era despite his struggles at Manchester United, according to Derby head coach Paul Clement.

Van Gaal, most likely in his final job before retiring, boasts an impressive CV which lists league championships and domestic cups in Holland, Spain and Germany, as well as UEFA Cup and Champions League titles - both with Ajax in the 1990s.

However, the 64-year-old Dutchman, who also guided his country to the World Cup semi-finals in 2014, has found life tough in England, especially this season, with United being branded dull and boring to watch and devoid of the attacking flair synonymous with the club.

After another such uninspiring performance last weekend in a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton, which brought a chorus of boos after the final whistle and was followed by some angry fans venting their anger at Van Gaal and calling for him to resign, he will be under immense scrutiny and pressure on Friday night when he takes his team to the iPro Stadium to face Derby in the FA Cup fourth round.

But Clement, a little under eight months into his first managerial role, still considers Van Gaal one of the best.

"He's one of many coaches who have spent his career at all the big clubs," said the Derby boss.

"I think he's well thought of, from a coach relatively new to this. Van Gaal, (Jose) Mourinho, (Carlo) Ancelotti, (Guus) Hiddink, (Pep) Guardiola, he's part of that group.

"When you look at the big clubs - Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester United - there are very few people who can do those jobs, and he (Van Gaal) is absolutely on that list."

Having worked under Ancelotti at Real Madrid as assistant coach, Clement is familiar with the pressure to deliver attractive attacking football.

At the Bernabeu, merely winning matches is not enough - as Rafael Benitez recently discovered to his cost - you have to do it in style.

Asked if Van Gaal has a responsibility to maintain the long-standing tradition of how United have played football historically, particularly in the recent past under Alex Ferguson, Clement said: "I don't know about that.

"At Real, we played Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final - they won the Spanish League and reached the European Cup final but they were physical, direct, aggressive, not a lot of football.

"It worked well for them, and I'm not sure it's about responsibility. It's the choice of the coach and maybe about the history of the club, and what the fans are used to.

"They chose him and he's got the right to play in a way he feels is best. That's part of the selection process.

"The man who followed Sir Alex had his difficulties, and now the next man in has had some difficulties too, but coaches need time to develop what they want to do.

"You still have to get results, although the perfect performances we are all searching for do take longer to produce."