Manchester United are believed to be on the verge of naming Louis van Gaal in his native Dutch accent, reports John Foster...
A team of linguists has been working behind the scenes for weeks to successfully utter the 62-year-old’s name, and reports from Old Trafford earlier today suggest a breakthrough is close.
“Naming Van Gaal is not as easy as it looks,” said a United source. “After the deceptively straightforward ‘Louis’ you jump straight in to the 'van', which you might think ends with a simple alveolar nasal, but it turns out to be a velar nasal. It might not look like much, but Van Gaal can tell.
“And then there’s the voiced velar fricative to kick off the 'Gaal',” the source continued, “which has been a total nightmare. We keep accidentally making it voiceless, and if we do that he’ll jump down our throats.
“That might actually make it easier to say, though, come to think of it.”
The source confirmed that the team had nearly cracked the voiced labiodental fricative that concluded Van Gaal’s name, and that all that remained was to make sure Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t present at the unveiling, “or all our work will have been for nothing”.
United were widely criticised for appointing ‘easy option’ David Moyes last summer, who had a mere seven phonemes to his name, and the decision to approach the unfamiliar West Germanic language family has been praised for its boldness.
However, the naming of the former Ajax boss may not be welcomed by Manchester United’s stars, given his reputation for reacting badly to substandard pronunciation attempts.
At Barcelona, Van Gaal signed only Dutch players after despairing of Spanish attempts at alveolar lateral approximants, and at Bayern Munich he infamously locked Luca Toni in a room for nine days with only a bottle of water and a stash of Rosetta Stone CDs.
United’s announcement has been delayed, however, after alarming reports surfaced that Van Gaal’s first name is actually Aloysius.