MANCHESTER, England (AP) — "Welcome to Vanchester" reads the message on a giant billboard on one of Manchester's busy streets.
Above the words, a picture of a smiling Louis van Gaal — his arms outstretched in a triumphant pose — dominates the red background.
And it's not just the landscape of the city that is changing following Van Gaal's hiring as Manchester United manager.
With three days to go until the Premier League season begins, English football is also wising up to the fact it has a new firebrand coach in its midst, someone who has never been afraid to speak his mind or issue reminders of his qualities and past achievements.
Manchester City, the reigning Premier League champion, is talking about finally making its mark in Europe. Arsenal is sensing its best chance to win the league title in years. And Chelsea has been installed as one of the favorites for the championship following the arrival of attackers Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas.
But the real intrigue heading into the new campaign is how successfully, and quickly, Van Gaal settles in at United and whether he can restore the fortunes of England's biggest club, which went into free-fall in the 10-month reign of David Moyes last season.
Van Gaal has wasted no time in making his presence felt at Old Trafford — and, as expected, he's been in the thick of the headlines.
Already, he has spoken of his concerns that United's vast commercial commitments were impinging on football matters. He has questioned the suitability of the main field at United's training center. He has changed the formation of the team to one rarely used in English football — a 3-5-2. He has been openly critical of one of his player's fitness (new signing Luke Shaw). And he is in the process of overhauling the playing squad, with some high-profile names either already out of Old Trafford or starting to pack their bags.
"He looks to be his own man who knows exactly what he wants to do," United goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel said. "I think we should be contending for the title again this season under him."
Many United fans will be of the same opinion.
Having collected league titles in spells at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Van Gaal already had a big opinion of himself before heading to the World Cup in Brazil with the Netherlands. There, his ego was massaged even further.
He made game-changing substitutions and tactical tinkerings, not least in a quarterfinal match against Costa Rica when he changed goalkeepers seconds before a penalty shootout. The incoming keeper, Tim Krul, saved two spot kicks and the Dutch advanced.