Liverpool owner John W.Henry was in advanced talks with the Dutchman over the possibility of becoming technical director, with the club looking to implement a european model of management.
But whilst searching for Kenny Dalglish’s successor, then Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers made it clear he would not be willing to work with a technical director, in a statement that has gone on to change the course of Premier League history.
Liverpool’s owners were so impressed with Rodgers during his interview, they scrapped the idea, and now the Liverpool boss is preparing to meet van Gaal for the first time with the Dutchman in charge of arch rivals Manchester United.
Speaking before the Reds clash with United in the final of the International Champions Cup tonight, Rodgers recalls the moment.
“I’m not sure how many people the club spoke to,’ he said.
“But for me coming in, I was always going to work with a team of people, rather than a director of football.
“I felt it was important, with all the work that needed to be done, and the size of the job I took on, that I needed to have the full responsibility to do that job, and I think the owners backed that.”
Talks with van Gaal were believed to have been at an advanced stage by the time Rodgers sat down for a face-to-face interview, and his bold statement could have prevented him being given the managers job at Anfield which he has gone on to make such a success of.
Rodgers says it was nothing personal towards the Dutchman, simply the fact the job required so much work it needed the manager to oversee everything.
“I always think the manager is the technical director. He is the man who oversees the football development of the club, and I believe you should take on that responsibility when you are manager,” he explained.
Rodgers also looked back on his previous experience of working with a director of football, which came during his ill-fated spell at Reading – where he lasted only six months in the job.
“I work best whenever I have clear communication lines with owners. My only failure – if you can call it that – was when I had something in between at Reading, which was when I had a director of football,” Rodgers remembers now.
“One of my strengths is to communicate upwards, and if I can’t do that, or if the message is diluted then I don’t work the same. So for me it was important that when I came in here that I didn’t want those lines blocked. It’s not that I can never work with one.”
Rodgers also had words of praise for Louis van Gaal, ahead of his first meeting with the man in charge of reviving the fortunes of the Reds bitterest rivals.
“Louis is a very experienced manager, a very good manager and he’s gone into United, and he’ll make his mark,” Rodgers added. “I’ve never met him before, but obviously I know of him through Jose Mourinho, and I know he was very instrumental in mentoring him at Barcelona.
“So I’m aware of the methods, I’m aware of how he works, and obviously he’s had a very good career.
“Obviously he has far greater experience than I have, and been around for so many years. But I have learned from the best, and that is what I have always done.
“Louis has gone there and adopted the 3-5-2, he’s obviously had success at the World Cup with that, and is looking to roll it out at United. It will be a tremendous game. It’s between two coaches who are thinkers about the game.”
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