LOUIS van Gaal may have warned his Manchester United side to beware of Burnley’s ‘long balls’ this afternoon, but he does have fond memories of his previous visit to Turf Moor.
The Clarets had just been crowned champions of the Fourth Division when Van Gaal last brought a side to Turf Moor in May 1992, for an end of season friendly with Ajax.
It was quite the glamour fixture for the Clarets, who were then a world away from the top flight.
John Francis’ goal had sealed promotion in a 2-1 victory at York City less than a month earlier.
They had started the season with a tour of southern Russia, playing games against Dynamo Stavropol and Asmaral of Kislovodsk, and following promotion Jimmy Mullen and his Burnley squad celebrated by jetting off to Bermuda following a pledge by club sponsors.
Meanwhile, Ajax were winning the UEFA Cup against Torino.
Van Gaal had been appointed as Ajax boss a year earlier, having previously served as assistant manager to Leo Beenhakker.
Asked yesterday about his previous visit to Turf Moor, Van Gaal paused to think for a few seconds before saying: “Yes, I was there!
“We won. I took over there in ’91, we won the UEFA Cup in the first season, in the second year we won the (Dutch) cup, and after the league. It was a step in the process.”
In six years as Ajax coach, Van Gaal would enjoy remarkable success. With a focus on bringing through young players, his side would progress to win the Champions League in 1995.
There were recognisable names that night at Turf Moor.
The starting line-up included Edwin van der Sar, Edgar Davids and Michael Reiziger, although it was the lesser known Ignacio Tuhuteru who scored the only goal of the game seven minutes from time.
In front of 10,746, the Burnley squad received their Fourth Division championship medals from Ajax vice president Andrew Kraan.
Van Gaal is now ready for his Turf Moor return, although his assessment of Burnley’s strengths may not have gone down well with everyone in the town.
“They will play with a lot of passion, a lot of long balls,” he said. “But you have to fight against it. It will be a very difficult game but we have to show we can play football, that we can pass the ball in spite of the pressure of Burnley.”