Juan Mata Recalls Having Wine with Louis van Gaal for the First Time

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The Louis van Gaal era at Manchester United didn’t produce a trophy until his final game (the 2016 FA Cup), and at that point it was already widely known that he was going to get replaced by Jose Mourinho. The football often lacked panache under Van Gaal too as we saw goalless draws aplenty.

However, there was still plenty of memorable moments, especially in press conferences where the Dutchman was sometimes funny, sometimes just plain mean, when he sparred with reporters.

LVG has a big personality, and it matched the size of a big club like United during his short tenure (2014-2016).

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He’s known for his affinity for wine, so when midfielder Juan Mata recalled his very first meeting with LVG, of course vino was involved. Nicknamed “the Iron Tulip,” the former United boss is also known for being a hard-liner, and that element was also present in the initial meeting between LVG and Mata.

“I arrive in the room and it was him, Ryan Giggs and a bottle of Rioja, red wine, with three glasses,” Mata said on United’s official podcast (transcript Oranje.com)

“He was like: ‘Do you want a drink?’ and I was like: ‘No, no, I’m fine’.

“He had a drink and said: ‘Tell me who you are’. I mean my name is Juan, I am 26, I play football. ‘No, no. Tell me who you are as a man. Do you have family?

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“What do you find important in life?”

“From that moment, he can look scary face to face and sometimes goes close to you but, after that, he was a very warm and genuine man. He was more than a football manager with tactics, he is a great human being and I learned a lot from him.”

“He was scary. I tell you. He was a very nice man; a very, very nice man; very genuine and very sensible. You wouldn’t expect that but he was very sensible.”

“He would get emotional and was crying sometimes, when he was speaking about important matters. When he found the right values, the right football, he got emotional.”

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So there you have it, although Van Gaal has a very authoritarian, and gruff personality, he’s got a big heart of gold underneath it all; or so Mata claims.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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