Manchester United return to the Champions League after a year’s gap to take on Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch side are managed by former FC Barcelona star Phillip Cocu, who played under Louis van Gaal during the United manager’s stint at the Catalan club. Ahead of the clash, Cocu acknowledged Van Gaal’s contribution in helping him improve as a player, but admitted they do not speak often any more.


Louis van Gaal managed PSV Eindhoven manager Phillip Cocu in his spell at FC Barcelona, where the pair won La Liga in 1998-99 together. Van Gaal also managed Frank De Boer and Giovanni van Bronckhorst during their playing careers. Thus, the veteran Duthcman has the unique distinction of having managed the current managers of the top three Eredivisie clubs in Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven.

Cocu and Van Gaal share a good bond, with the United manager having handed Cocu the Netherlands captain’s armband during his first stint as Oranje coach.

Van Gaal made me a better player – Cocu

FC Barcelona did not win much during Cocu’s spell from 1998 to 2004 before Joan Laporta brought his revolution to turn things around. However, Cocu did win a La Liga in 98-99 and generally, was one of the few players to have consistently played well for the Blaugrana.

Cocu credited Van Gaal’s tactical skill in improving him as a played ahead of locking horns with his mentor. He was quoted by ESPN FC as saying:

“He made me a better player because of his tactical skills and the way he worked with the team, but afterwards when I stopped playing, as coaches we met sometimes but we didn’t speak a lot [about] how we worked [or] give advice.”


He added: “It’s not so difficult [to play for Van Gaal] if you are open to it, if you are convinced that his way is the best way for the team. The only differences are between the players. Some are open and learn quickly, others like to play on their intuition.”