Louis van Gaal introduced as Manchester United manager
Dutch coach replaces David Moyes, who was dismissed after less than a year
While avoiding starting his Manchester United reign with any bold predictions or statements of intent, Louis van Gaal still projected an aura of authority and conviction in his ability to take on one of the biggest jobs in football.
There was none of the uneasiness at Thursday's official presentation that was evident last July, when the ill-fated David Moyes appeared overwhelmed at the task of succeeding Alex Ferguson after 26 years.
It's little wonder. Moyes arrived at Old Trafford from Everton without a major trophy to his name. Van Gaal is a proven winner as a manager, collecting titles at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich before leading the Netherlands to an unexpected third-place finish at the World Cup on Saturday.
The 62-year-old Van Gaal is so self-assured that he felt confident enough — on just his second official day in the United job — to question the main training pitch and flag up the club's focus on money-making.
"It's the biggest club of the world," Van Gaal said at Old Trafford. "Within two days I know already how important Manchester United is but also how important the sponsors are."
Just this week, United signed a 10-year kit deal with Adidas that will be worth at least $1.3 billion, and then added Japanese noodle maker Nissin to its ever-expanding collection of global sponsors.
"This club is ... guided in a commercial way and we have to fulfill that," Van Gaal said. "It's not always possible to fulfill the commercial expectations [and] the football expectations. That is my big challenge after two days."
What Van Gaal will be judged on is returning United to the Champions League. Under Moyes, United went from winning a 20th English title in Ferguson's final act as manager to seventh-place finishers, even missing out on Europa League qualification.
"I cannot give predictions because you never know," he said. "There's a lot of expectation, but it's also a great challenge because of that."
A challenge that requires time to overhaul a team that went into an alarming slump under Moyes.
"I have to see how the players perform my philosophy and how quick they can pick up this philosophy," Van Gaal said. "For me, the challenge is always first — not fourth — but ... it's dependable on the lock between the players and the coach."
Defender Luke Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera have already been added to the squad with his approval, but there are no immediate plans for further recruits in the summer transfer window.
"I want to see the first three, four weeks what [the squad] can do and then, maybe, I shall buy other players," Van Gaal said.
What the first training session on Wednesday showed Van Gaal was not about the condition of the players, but the pitch itself.
"The facility needs a little more intimacy," he said. "I have asked already because now it's an open field, but there is always wind.
"And wind is not always the friend of the players. It's not always the friend of the ball and so we have to do something about that."
In related news, United midfielder Michael Carrick will miss the opening two months of the season after ankle surgery.
Carrick injured ligaments in his left ankle in training this week and had the operation on Thursday.
United says Carrick will be out for 10-12 weeks.
The new season begins in a month with a match against Swansea on Aug. 16.
The injury is an early setback for van Gaal, who said, "that's a blow for me because he's experienced. It's very important we have experienced players."