GRETAR Steinsson has backed his former coach Louis van Gaal to become “more than a manager” when he takes the helm at neighbours Manchester United.
The former Wanderers favourite knows all about the Dutchman, having played for two years under him at AZ Alkmaar before moving to the Premier League in January, 2008.
Steinsson even enlisted the 62-year-old’s help recently to assist his studies as he trains to become a sporting director, spending time with Van Gaal in the Netherlands as he prepared the national team for this summer’s World Cup.
Tasked with restoring United’s fortunes after the miserable 10-month reign of David Moyes, Van Gaal describes himself as “Confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, hard-working and innovative.”
And his former charge Steinsson reckons the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich chief has the necessary pedigree and character to turn the club round.
“He will be a perfect fit for what they need now,” the Icelander said. “They need to renovate the squad because some players have moved on.
“They need someone strong who can bring players in and have the pedigree to attract these top players even though United are not in the Champions League. He is someone who can do that.”
Steinsson played 61 times under Van Gaal at AZ, scoring seven goals, and earning a big- money move to Wanderers, where he helped Gary Megson’s side scrap their way out of relegation danger.
The former full-back recently retired after a spell in Turkish football with Kayserispor and is now taking the academic route, working towards a career in football administration.
But he remembers fondly his time with Van Gaal at the unfashionable Dutch club, who were only then starting to challenge the established giants such as Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven for honours.
“He was really professional and taught me an incredible amount,” Steinsson said. “He looks for the total man and he tries to bring that out in people.
“I would never ever say anything bad about him. He did fantastic things for me and fantastic things for all of us.
“Players who are willing to learn and willing to listen and improve in every way, he is the perfect man for that. I will always care for the man. A lot of stories have come out about this and that but while he manages with emotion, he will get a lot out of players and especially staff who work under him. They will reap the benefit in the long run.
“He becomes more than just a manager; just like Sir Alex Ferguson did with a lot of his players. You hear about Ferguson's hair dryer treatment, you hear about his emotional outbursts at half time and after a game. But it's only because they care about the players and the people they work with.
“They want the best out of them. They both have extremely high standards and work hard at what they do. They expect nothing less in return. If they can do it, they expect other people around them to do the same.
“A lot will be demanded of the players but only because he sets his standards so high just like Ferguson did. That’s why he will fit so perfectly into a club like United.
“I never had any first-hand experience of Ferguson but reading interviews by him and also his book, you see a lot of comparisons. They are both big personalities and that is something that is needed in football today.
“You need to be a personality to cope in the top sport environment. They both fit into this really well.”