Hiddink to copy United blueprint for success

Manager calls for Chelsea to start thinking ahead if they are to close gap at top

Guus Hiddink admitted yesterday that Manchester United had left the rest of the Premier League behind and Chelsea would have to copy Sir Alex Ferguson's strategies if they were to have any hope of competing with them in the future. The Dutchman said that Chelsea had to start thinking "two steps ahead", instead of just focusing on the short term.

The interim Chelsea manager, whose side can close the gap to United to four points if they beat Portsmouth tonight, said that he was not "scared" by the prospect of trying to compete with Ferguson for the three major trophies left this season. However, the bad news for Chelsea is that Nicolas Anelka is almost certain to miss tonight's game after bruising a toe, thus depriving Hiddink of his top goalscorer. With Liverpool's title challenge fading, and Arsenal's non-existent, it was put to Hiddink that he is arguably the last manager capable of denying Ferguson his 11th Premier League title. In an echo of Kevin Keegan's famous 1996 television rant – although delivered in a considerably calmer mood – Hiddink said he would "love" to stop Ferguson claiming all four major trophies. "I hope that we can stop him," he said, "I'd love to stop him [achieving] this aim."

However, it was Hiddink's assessment of Ferguson the manager which gave an insight into just how far Chelsea have to go to catch up. "He [Ferguson] has a very good organisation, he thinks one or two steps ahead, about what will happen next year or the year after," Hiddink said. "We have to make our philosophy and strategy not only for now but for the future. You make reports on your players and try to foresee what the future is. That's what they [United] do very well. They prepare their near future very well, from what I can see. There's good balance in their [squad's] age groups.

"Yes, they have been a very dominant, organised club for many years. It's a good philosophy, in my opinion. Other clubs may try to go the same way – some clubs have their own academies as well, like this club. You want to make your players competitive for the first-team squad, as well."

Such is Hiddink's determination to return to his Russia coach job full-time at the end of the season, he would not even discuss what Chelsea's long-term future might be, preferring instead to say it was "a question for the management" of the club. So far, not one of the club's academy graduates has made an impression on the first team, despite a considerable investment from owner Roman Abramovich.

Shortly before Hiddink's arrival, Chelsea's Under-18 team, which is stocked largely with players bought by the out-of-favour chief scout and director of youth development Frank Arnesen, were eliminated from the FA Youth Cup by Liverpool's equivalent team. As for the age profile of the first-team squad, there seems to be no change in the reliance on the older players, such as Frank Lampard (30), Didier Drogba (31 this month), Anelka (pictured, 30 this month), Ricardo Carvalho (29) and John Terry (28).

On Ferguson himself, Hiddink said he was not daunted by the prospect of coming into a league that Ferguson has competed in for more than 22 years and in which his power and influence range far and wide. "I don't know if people are scared of him," Hiddink said. "I was not scared. I don't know whether players or young managers are scared of him, but I'm not fully aware of everything.

"Why should up-and-coming managers be scared of him?" Now that Chelsea are in second place, albeit on goal difference, Hiddink was duty-bound to say his team have a chance of catching United, but even he was not certain. "As long as there is a possibility, you never know. But, realistically, it will be difficult," he said.

The long-awaited comeback of Michael Essien, out since September, is now imminent. The midfielder was due to play, along with Carvalho, in last night's reserve game against Aston Villa.

So far, Hiddink and Ferguson have never faced one another as managers, apart from a 2004 friendly between United and PSV Eindhoven. Hiddink said mistakenly yesterday that they had – "Berry Van Aerle gave away a penalty" – but the game he was referring to was in November 1984. Ferguson was manager of Aberdeen but Hiddink was only assistant manager to Jan Reker. Gordon Strachan scored the penalty and Aberdeen won 1-0.

"It [football] is an addiction so you can empathise with Sir Alex," Hiddink said. "He tried to pack it in once a few years ago... Then he got bored. This is football. It's in his body."

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine