Louis van Gaal says he was very close to taking over at Tottenham in 2014 as the Dutch manager revealed that he only ended up at Manchester United because Daniel Levy “blew the chance” by waiting too long to offer him a contract.
At the time, Van Gaal was nearing the end of his time managing his native Netherlands, while Tottenham were on the hunt for a new coach following Tim Sherwood’s tenure.
The Dutch boss was heavily linked with the job, with Van Gaal admitting that he met with Levy to discuss the job and was open to the idea of joining Spurs.
However, as talks delayed, United came in with an offer to take over as David Moyes’ successor.
In the end, Spurs’ delay allowed Man Utd to swoop for Van Gaal, although Tottenham ended up doing just fine as they hired Mauricio Pochettino that year.
“Daniel Levy flew into Holland with a private jet and came to my house, where we spoke for several hours,” Van Gaal told FourFourTwo.
“He even stayed on to watch the Southampton-Spurs match later that afternoon [which Spurs won 3-2]. He asked for my thoughts about that game, so that was a kind of test as well.
“When Levy wanted to leave in the evening, I noticed there were TV cameras outside my house. A Dutch broadcaster had heard that he was in Holland, and guessed he would be here for me.
“As we wanted to keep it quiet, I called my neighbour to ask whether he could take him away in his car. As they did, with Levy hiding in the back seat, I opened my front door and approached the reporters to ask what they were doing.
“It worked out very well – they were taken by surprise. As a coach, timing is everything! But it took Spurs a long time to make a firm offer, and United approached me in the meantime. They acted far quicker.
“I also liked the idea of going there, to coach the number one club in England – just like I had done before in Holland, Spain and Germany. If Spurs had come with a concrete offer earlier on, I’d have signed for them.
“Spurs were actually a club I liked when I was younger, as I was a big fan of Jimmy Greaves. I told Levy that as well, but he blew the chance by waiting so long.”
Van Gaal went on to manage Man Utd for two seasons, winning the FA Cup in 2015-16 before being sacked days later.
In the years since his departure, Wayne Rooney has called Van Gaal “the best coach I have worked with” and, despite the unceremonious end to his tenure, the manager says he takes pride in having earned the forward’s praise.
“Those things were really great to read,” Van Gaal said. “I’ve also been a very demanding coach, so if players still say those things about me, it’s particularly nice.
“I gave Wayne the captaincy to keep him within the team’s discipline and code of conduct, which he struggled with on occasions. A new period was dawning and he was one of the older players, so I thought that it could have a positive influence on him. And he was an outstanding player, of course.”