And it's his job to fix it. It takes a big man with a big personality to lay down a marker like that, but then even his harshest critics would concede that the Dutchman isn't shy when it comes to being big and bold. "I don't think it's too hard a word because when you are seventh the team is not happy and unsatisfied and without confidence. When you are like that, you are broken," Van Gaal said last week.
Another manager might have been worried about offending his predecessor - they are still, after all, part of the same fraternity - or, worse, the guy who appointed his predecessor (Sir Alex, presumably, is still somewhere in the background). But not Van Gaal. Blunt and outspoken is his natural state. And he revels in it.
Where another manager might have been somewhat more circumspect about his club's biggest summer signing, he had no concerns about writing off Luke Shaw until he got fitter.
Van Gaal simply said he wasn't ready to play and sent him off to train by himself. Note that this is the same Shaw who is 18 years old and who went to the World Cup with England which rather suggests he did not spend the summer eating kebabs.
Equally brash is Van Gaal's decision to opt for a back three. This may all go out the window once the season starts, but for now it's decidedly left-field. Why is a back three a dubious choice for United? Let us count the ways …
None of his current crop of defenders have played in a back three. While it's something that can be learned it takes time. Van Gaal's two-a-day training sessions - another practice generally alien to the English game - may accelerate the process, but it remains a gamble.
Then there's the issue of personnel. With the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, United are down to three senior centrebacks: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. The first two were often used elsewhere last season, while injuries limited the latter to just 17 league starts.
Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane have looked good in pre-season, but they are 20 and 21 respectively and have played a total of zero Premier League minutes between them. Even if another established central defender comes on board it still looks like an area of the pitch with more questions than answers.
Finally there's the simple issue of how this affects the rest of the line-up. Unless you want to divert Wayne Rooney to the wing - or drop him altogether - the only real option is 3-4-1-2. And that leaves no space for Adnan Januzaj who is supposed to be the future of the club.
Van Gaal's pedigree affords him the right to experiment as he sees fit. He's done the unorthodox in the past and been proved right (though he's also had spectacular failures too). The best you can do is sit back and watch. It won't be dull.
We thought we'd said goodbye after 844 games and 251 goals in English football. We were wrong. Frank Lampard will still be a Premier League player next season, at least until January.
Which, on the face of it, shouldn't be so surprising. After his release from Chelsea, he joined a club, New York City, that won't kick a ball in anger until March 2015. When you're 36 years old, nine months is a long time to go without competitive football. So it made sense that he'd go on loan somewhere.
The fact that it's at Manchester City - owned by the same company as the New York version - makes it all neat, tidy and easy. No concerns about him going somewhere else with unfamiliar doctors or training routines or risks of injuries. It's all one family.
Others may fret - rightly - about Financial Fair Play implications (what if New York City sign everybody for zillions and loan them to Manchester City for a pittance?), but for now we're privileged to see a real class act up close for another six months. And that's something to cherish.
We're used to big clubs stockpiling talent. It's football's version of the one-percenters running roughshod over everybody else. But, until recently, there was a very clear conventional wisdom: goalkeepers need stability and you must have a clear No 1.
Real Madrid were the notable exceptions - Iker Casillas in the cups, Diego Lopez in the league - but that situation was as much political as anything else. Now, however, you have two legitimate No 1s at Chelsea (Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois); Barcelona (Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen); Arsenal (David Ospina and Wojciech Sczcesny) and Manchester City (Willy Caballero and Joe Hart).
Meanwhile, at Real Madrid, three's a crowd, with the addition of Costa Rica's World Cup hero Keylor Navas.
These aren't guys used to sitting on the bench; there's no Raimond van der Gouw among them. All of the above were first-choice starters for most of last year and all bar Caballero and Lopez are internationals.
Nor are they youngsters learning their craft. Courtois and Ter Stegen are admittedly just 22, but both have three years as starters under their belts at Atletico Madrid and Borussia Moenchengladbach respectively.
They aren't veterans looking for a quiet semi-retirement either. Cech and Caballero are both 32, Casillas 33; in goalkeeping years, that's mid-career.
What all this means is that top clubs are willing to tie up significant resources in guys who may never get on the pitch. It means opposing clubs are denied their services, but it could also make for a bumpy campaign. Life as a back-up can be pretty darn demoralising.