Led by Bert van Marwijk, who had taken them to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ final, the Dutch crashed out of UEFA EURO 2012 at the group stage after losing all three of their matches.
His successor Van Gaal, returning for a second spell in the job, then endured a less-than-ideal first game back as the side suffered a 4-2 friendly defeat in Belgium last month.
They are now working their way towards the 2014 FIFA World Cup, though, with their qualification campaign getting underway with Friday's 2-0 home victory over Turkey in Group D and continuing with Tuesday's clash with Hungary in Budapest.
Ahead of that contest, Heitinga has stressed the need for the Netherlands to keep pushing forward. The Everton centre-back told De Telegraaf: "The European Championships [performance by the Netherlands] was mediocre, but let us not forget that under him [Van Marwijk] we also came second in the World Cup.
"It is now time to look ahead, however. I want the next two years to be of value to this team and I know that I can be - and at Everton, should I start playing again."
Heitinga's only appearances in the Premier League so far this season have been as a substitute and, after coming off towards the end of the Turkey game with cramp, he admits he is a little short of full match fitness.
His condition will be assessed, but the Netherlands will definitely be without Tim Krul for the Hungary fixture after the Newcastle United goalkeeper picked up an elbow problem. Van Gaal has reacted by calling up PSV Eindhoven stopper Jeroen Zoet.
The 21-year-old, who is on loan at RKC Waalwijk, said: "I have packed my bag with a big smile. It is a very beautiful thing that I get the chance to show myself. I look forward to training with Maarten Stekelenburg and Michel Vorm."
Turks taking nothing for granted
Turkey will be looking to bounce back from their loss to the Dutch by securing maximum points from their home game against Estonia, although their goalkeeper Tolga Zengin is taking nothing for granted.
Zengin told reporters: "I hope we can take three points from the game against Estonia and move on, but it is going to be a tough match. They seem like an easy opponent on paper, but we are playing on a football field, where there is no guarantee."