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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us