Van Gaal: Manchester United is a distraction

The Netherlands coach takes charge at Old Trafford after the World Cup and admits the task looming ahead may have forced him to refocus attentions - but he is excited by the role
By Mark Doyle in Salvador

Louis van Gaal has played down speculation his new role at Manchester United has affected his preparations for the World Cup with Netherlands.

The 62-year-old will take charge at Old Trafford following the tournament, but has wasted no time in making an impact at the club by outlining his transfer targets and ordering new pitches at Carrington.

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Netherlands, though, face Spain on Friday as they kick off their World Cup against the side they lost in the 2010 final too and Van Gaal has insisted all eyes are on Brazil and the team's preparations.

"Distraction? Well, it may be a distraction," he told reporters. "But perhaps Manchester United was a good distraction."

Australia and the highly rated Chile await in the other two group matches, but nothing has dented Van Gaal's confidence in his team's ability to go the distance in Brazil.

"You have to enjoy yourself," he told reporters. "You can’t be serious all the time. You have to release the tension. Cope with the pressure. We have five weeks here. Make no mistake: we will be here for five weeks."

However, the incoming United manager admitted the prospect of refereeing decisions making the final difference between success and failure at the World Cup makes him nervous.

"I also feel the tension in my stomach," he added.

"If you play such a big tournament, of course not everything just depends on your technical and your tactical skills. We saw that [in Brazil's win over Croatia], for instance - you can't control everything."

Spain are widely tipped to top Group B as they bid to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major international tournament, and Van Gaal was full of praise for their enduring success.

"Spanish football might be the best in the world, with the physical and technical sides all linked up," he insisted.

"I like the dedication of the Spanish players. They are ranked No.1. We are ranked No.15. We have to play a compact game against them."