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."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried