Van Gaal arrives at fallen giants United with a well-earned reputation as tough taskmaster during a glittering coaching career which has included spells at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
But when he met the world’s media for the first time as United manager on Thursday, the 62-year-old Dutchman was adamant different aspects of his personality have made him successful rather than the hard-line approach that is frequently focused on.
“I am a democratic, empathetic human being,” Van Gaal said. “Of course I have a strong personality but the other characteristics are more important. And that’s the key of my personality.
“My reputation for being autocratic? It’s unfair. Because of the media. They want to show that part of the personality.
“Part of the personality is like this. But when you repeat that always everyone thinks like that.
“There is a lot of expectation, but also a great challenge because of that and therefore I have chosen for this club. I worked for Barcelona, the number one team in Spain in my opinion.
“I have coached Ajax, number one in the Netherlands. And I have coached Bayern Munich, the number one in Germany.
“And now I am with Manchester United who are the number one in England. I hope I shall fulfil the expectation, which shall be difficult.”
Van Gaal, who guided the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup, would not give an exact prediction on where he expected United to finish in the Premier League in the coming season following their woeful seventh place last term.
However, he did acknowledge there is significant weight of expectation at Old Trafford and claimed his personal goal throughout management was always to finish at the top.
– ‘First, not fourth’ –
“For me, the challenge is always first and not fourth,” van Gaal said. “But when you have to analyse after one season, it depends on click between the players and the manager.
“I will do my utmost best. That’s what I can give. I cannot give predictions because you never know.
“It’s the biggest club in the world. Within two days I know how important Manchester United is.
“Can I fulfil their expectation? I think I can do. But because of the greatness of this club it’s also much more difficult than another club.
“Also this club is also guided in the commercial way and we have to fulfil that also.
“That is now always possible, to fulfil the commercial expectations or the football expectations. That is my biggest challenge.”
Van Gaal insisted he would make a full assessment of United’s squad before he pursued any further transfer targets.
“I want to look at the players now, at the present players,” Van Gaal said.
“Of course, I know the players and how they play. But I don’t know how the players have trained and coached.
“Firstly I want to see, over the first two, three, four weeks, what they can do.
“Then maybe then I shall I buy other players. The players that we have bought now — Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera — were already on the list so I gave my approval because I like them. But first I want to see the players performing my philosophy.”
Van Gaal, who will be assisted by United legend Ryan Giggs, also indicated that he would find room in his backroom staff for more of United’s former players, including Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville.
The Dutchman will, however, delay a decision on who will replace Nemanja Vidic, who has joined Inter Milan, as the club’s captain.
Van Gaal’s compatriot Robin van Persie has been widely tipped to get the armband at Old Trafford ahead of fellow striker Wayne Rooney.
“All the players are a possible candidate. I have to get to know them,” he added.
“Quick decisions are not always good. I use my time properly, because I think the captain of the team for me, is very important.”