By Coral Barry

Xavi admits he initially thought Louis Van Gaal was an “idiot” – but changed his mind after just a week under the Dutch coach.

The Barcelona legend was an unknown youngster when Van Gaal took charge at Camp Nou in 1997 and was handed his first-team debut by the Dutchman a year later.

With Van Gaal facing increasing criticism from Manchester United fans and former players about the team’s style of play in his second season as manager, Xavi has leapt to the defence of his former boss.

“After two days of training under him I thought, ‘Who is this idiot?’ After a week, I thought, ‘He’s right.’ He’ll always be in my heart, Louis van Gaal,” said Xavi.

“He’s a tough fighter, yet he put trust into me when I was 17 and 18 years old.”

United legends including Paul Scholes and Peter Schmeichel have criticised United’s football in recent weeks, but Xavi has instead suggested that the experienced Dutchman is “poorly valued in the media”.

Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

Under pressure: United fans have become angry with Van Gaal’s style of play

Now playing in Qatar with Al Sadd after 742 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi has seen a change in Van Gaal’s attitude but not in his desire to deliver success.

“[He is a] good person, very good trainer,” explained the 35-year-old. “He has a very strong character but he’s calm in the Premier League because there’s less pressure.

“He’s much calmer than when he was at Barca or Bayern Munich. He’s honest, methodical and a real perfectionist.”

“He’s very demanding, he’s strict and he wants to achieve the highest levels possible.”