Robin van Persie has praised new Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, saying the intensity of his training sessions improves every player under his command.
However, their relationship threatened to get off to a rocky start when, upon taking charge after Euro 2012, Van Gaal warned that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar would be preferred in attack as Van Persie had failed to deliver for his country.
"He didn't even rule out the possibility that I would be third-choice striker," Van Persie laughed in an interview with Sp!ts when asked about those remarks this week. "It was a great conversation. We only talked briefly about that situation -- we spoke more about football generally. During that conversation, we got to know each other, because I'd never spoken to him before. From the first minute, things went very well."
Van Persie quickly reasserted himself in the Dutch starting XI and, asked whether he thinks the coach was trying to get a reaction, Van Persie said: "Maybe. I don't know.
"The fact is that we've had many great conversations over the past two years about football but also about other things. You don't have that bond with every coach."
Van Gaal suggested in February that Van Persie was not enjoying life under David Moyes at Old Trafford but the striker appears to be delighted with the new United boss' approach.
"Every training session is really intense," he said. "The coach is onto you every second. If you start flagging for even a moment, you'll get to hear about it. He's very direct with everyone, myself included.
"We don't do training sessions for two-and-a-half hours -- they're usually an hour and 15 minutes or so -- but they are incredibly intense. It makes everybody better. Every day, I see the level of all players improving."
He added: "He has a different approach to the other coaches I've worked under, but I like it a lot. He is very clear and honest -- he says when something is good and when something is not good, but there is always room for discussion.
"He creates a very relaxed atmosphere, but he is typically Dutch: direct. Boom! He has only one aim, and that is to improve. I don't find that exhausting -- I find it energising. Wonderful."