Ahead of Australia and the Netherlands' clash in Brazil, Ange Postecoglou's right-hand man has tipped the Oranje star to take on a leadership role at his club next season
By Iain Strachan
As the Socceroos prepare for a daunting showdown with the in-form Netherlands, Australia assistant coach Ante Milicic believes Robin van Persie could become Louis van Gaal's captain at Manchester United.
The Oranje registered the most eye-catching result of the World Cup so far by destroying holders Spain 5-1 in Salvador on Friday and they are now expected to swat aside Ange Postecoglou's underdogs, who were unfortunate not get a draw in a 3-1 loss to Chile later that day.
Last month Van Gaal was confirmed as Manchester United's new manager and a huge challenge awaits the 62-year-old as he attempts to revive the fortunes of the Old Trafford club next season.
But any suggestions the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss could be distracted by his next assignment were quashed as the razor-sharp Dutch tore the reigning champions apart at the Arena Fonte Nova.
The strength of the Netherlands' team spirit was evident when Van Persie sprinted to the half-way line to high-five his coach after scoring the equaliser that sparked La Roja's unexpected demise.
'Give me five boss' | Full marks for enthusiasm, but more work needed on accuracyAnd Milicic believes the former Arsenal centre-forward - and United in general - are set to benefit from Van Gaal's impending arrival at the club.
"You know one thing, that a man with that kind of experience and that kind of professionalism has been in similar situations in football and he's got enough experience to deal with those situations," the Socceroos assistant coach told Goal Australia when quizzed on Van Gaal's likely frame of mind.
"It could work both ways. Maybe he does have one eye on his Manchester United job. Or maybe now his future is sorted for after the World Cup he can spend even more time on the Dutch national team.
"Straight off the top of your head, you can think, look Van Persie's there, he's got him as the captain of his team in Holland, he could possibly be the new captain now at Man Utd. So there's already some kind of a link going on there. "
Milicic does not believe the Netherlands squad will be distracted by their coach's impending departure to United, who have already been linked with the likes of Feyenood centre-back Bruno Martins Indi as they seek to replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
"These are all big players that are all professional," he said of the Dutch camp.
"And also you know as one of those younger defenders, they could be something that he's looking to bring, new defenders to Man Utd, which they've lost two high profile one's in the European summer.
"There's a lot of different ways the players could look at it but I don't they'll be worried too much about what the manager's doing after the World Cup, they'll be focusing on his instructions for the present."
With the Dutch expected to dominate possession against the Socceroos, it remains to be seen if the Netherlands will alter the reactive formation that proved so successful against Spain. Regardless of how their opponents line up at Estadio Beira-Rio, Milicic knows Australia must brace themselves for another massive test on world football's biggest stage.
"We know that (Van Gaal) is very experienced and quite adaptable with different formations, whether that be 3-5-2, every kid in Holland knows how to play 4-3-3, which we as Australians know well," he said.
"We all know about the class they have going forward. They're a great footballing nation with high expectations."