'No-one can see I'm sick… I'm used to death': Former Man United manager Louis van Gaal, 72, delivers an upbeat but heartbreaking update on his prostate cancer, living with radiation and urine bags

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Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has delivered a positive but heartbreaking update on his health, having revealed two years ago that he suffers from aggressive prostate cancer.

The Dutchman, 72, has enjoyed a glittering career in the dugout with top European clubs including Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and United — and even led the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar while battling the disease.

Van Gaal resigned from his third stint as Netherlands boss after the tournament to focus on fighting his prostate cancer, which requires him to undergo radiation treatment and use a urine bag, and revealed last September that it would be a ‘miracle’ if he ever goes to the toilet by himself again.


Now, the manager is filming for a documentary titled ‘Always Positive’ alongside the director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, Maria Blasco. The film, which premieres on Wednesday, will serve to support oncological research. 

In an interview with Spanish outlet AS, Van Gaal explained how he is coping while living with the disease, delivered an update on the treatment he is receiving, and opened up on being ‘used to death’ in his family.

Louis van Gaal has delivered a positive but heartbreaking update on his prostate cancer

Louis van Gaal has delivered a positive but heartbreaking update on his prostate cancer

Van Gaal, pictured in 2022 with his wife, was interviewed ahead of Wednesday’s premiere of a documentary he is in titled ‘Always Positive’, which serve to support oncological research

The former Manchester United manager alongside Sir Alex Ferguson after winning the FA Cup

The former Manchester United manager alongside Sir Alex Ferguson after winning the FA Cup

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Asked if the prostate cancer has changed his outlook on life, Van Gaal said: ‘Not much, really. Look, I come from a family in which we are nine brothers. I am the smallest. My father died when I was 11 years old. He died at 53. 

‘My first wife died when she was 39. And all my brothers died too soon. I’m used to death. That’s why I know that death is a part of life, and you can deal with it. 

‘When I first heard I had cancer I said, “Okay, it’s not good news, but I better try to do something about it.” Each human can react in a different way. That’s why I say: “Be yourself.”’

Despite living with prostate cancer — and having just finished an exhausting day of filming for the documentary — the interviewer described Van Gaal as looking ‘spectacular’. 

Van Gaal coached Manchester United between 2014 and 2016, lifting the FA Cup during his final season at Old Trafford. 

He took a five-year break from management before returning to the Netherlands dugout in 2021. 

The 72-year-old had battled with the disease for over a year before announcing the news publicly to the world, appearing in good health while managing his country.

‘I have always looked very young, that is the reason for my good appearance,’ he said, laughing. ‘My mother was dying and until the last moment she had her face like a flower. No one could see that she was sick. And I have the same problem. Or the same luck.

The 72-year-old says he is 'used to death', with several family members passing away in his life

The 72-year-old says he is ‘used to death’, with several family members passing away in his life

Van Gaal led the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup while battling with his prostate cancer

Van Gaal led the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup while battling with his prostate cancer

‘I have been living with the disease for just over three years, with radiation, hormone injections, operations, catheters and urine bags. It’s unbelievable, but I can handle it. I have managed it, and I have been able to do it even working during the last World Cup. 

‘I even think that during the World Cup I managed it even better, because I had a goal. And with the cancer process it happens just like with the process of being a coach, you look for a goal. For me it was positive to deal with both things.’