Chelsea manager speculation intensifies

Carlo Ancelotti might want to remain at Chelsea but speculation about a new-look coaching set-up at Stamford Bridge intensified today in the wake of the club's crushing Barclays Premier League defeat at Manchester United.

Ancelotti appears certain to be sacked at the end of the season in two weeks' time, with his departure representing the sixth managerial change at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich's takeover eight years ago.

Appointing Ancelotti's replacement may prove problematic, with Abramovich's reported preferred candidate, Guus Hiddink, seemingly uninterested in a return to the job he temporarily filled two years ago.

Unless the Dutchman can be persuaded otherwise, Abramovich may have to look elsewhere, with Hiddink's compatriots Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard heavily touted.

Porto sensation Andre Villas-Boas is also among the bookmakers' favourites, along with Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who would undoubtedly supply the brand of football Abramovich craves.

That could also be the case were Gianfranco Zola to join the Chelsea coaching staff amid reports today that the Stamford Bridge legend is being lined up for a role in any new managerial team.

A change of approach would also herald changes in the squad, with several players likely to depart ahead of the start of yet another summer recruitment drive.

The signing of a creative midfielder to get the best out of Fernando Torres would appear a must and Kaka's name will almost certainly come into the frame during the summer.

Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Jose Bosingwa all have just a year left on their contracts and could quite easily move on, while the futures of Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel must also be in doubt.

That quartet all started yesterday's 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford, which as good as killed off Chelsea's dream of the greatest comeback in Premier League title history.

The Blues failed to turn up during the opening 45 minutes as United ran riot and could easily have found themselves more than 2-0 down.

They rallied somewhat in the second half but the final scoreline flattered them as they all but surrendered the title they won last year.

The defeat left them six points behind United with two games remaining, undoing all their hard work over the previous two months to claw back a 15-point deficit.

Chelsea conceded after just 36 seconds yesterday and captain John Terry struggled to explain why they were caught cold.

He told Chelsea TV: "I'm not sure. We were fully prepared and it's one of those things.

"Disappointing day but, going back two months, we would've taken this - being in the position (three points behind United).

"We felt it was in our hands and we could come here and we could win the game.

"Sometimes, you have to hold your hands up."

He added: "We came here hoping and praying that we started well and the role was completely reversed.

"They had a great start and got the early goal, which settled them.

"But, first half, we didn't deserve anything from the game at all.

"I thought second half we came out, we had nothing to lose and went for it and dominated the second half.

"It just would've been interesting to get that second goal and get it back to level terms."

The result left Chelsea on the brink of their worst season of the Abramovich era and Ancelotti was expecting to learn his fate soon after their final game of the season at Everton.

Meanwhile, midfielder Essien has ended his self-imposed one-year exile from the Ghana national team.

Essien controversially put his Black Stars career on hold after suffering two serious injuries.

But he told BBC Sport: "I am fully ready to return to the Black Stars for our next (African Nations Cup) qualifier against Congo in June.

"I still have a lot to offer my country and it never crossed my mind to retire from the national team."

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