Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal said before the Chelsea game that should his side win, they would again be in the mix for a late title challenge while his counterpart Guus Hiddink said he would like some of the drawn results to be wins. The result: Chelsea 1-1 Man United. At least it was entertaining, it always is when these two giants of English football go head to head, but where do they go from here?
While van Gaal expressed disappointment at the widening gap between the Reds and the teams above them (six points behind fourth placed Manchester City and 12 behind leaders Leicester City) Hiddink all but conceded the Blues’ hopes of a top-four finish. A week ago, both sets of fans could have voiced their support for the appointment of Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, but with the Spaniard headed to Manchester City, both clubs find themselves in a difficult position but of a very different nature.
Hiddink can ease the pressure on himself with the “interim” that is prefixed ahead of his job title, knowing full and well that he is under no pressure to deliver titles and that his performance till May can help him make a claim for a permanent shot at the job. To an extent, he has succeeded with an 11-game unbeaten run in all competitions while also returning Diego Costa to goal scoring form (six goals in seven games) and Eden Hazard too is slowly showing glimpses of the player that was voted the EPL player of the year.
Van Gaal though, is not so lucky. Granted his team have begun to show glimpses of the attacking football they are known for (with Jesse Lingaard’s goal on Sunday a perfect example), the Dutchman comes with a ‘best before’ date of June 2017. In admitting that this is his last job in management, the former Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax coach has put himself under immense pressure to deliver. It didn’t help that he boasted of winning titles with each team he has ever managed, adding that he would be able to do so with United in two-three years. Two of his three years are close to an end at United, with the team managing a grand total of zero titles so far while also taking a step back in performance.
“You’ve spoken with Ed Woodward?” he said when asked about rumours that the club were actively looking for his replacement---mooted to be Jose Mourinho. “Why they (the club) have to deny (the Mourinho rumours)? I don’t interfere neither (sic). So why the club has to deny that, when you are creating stories?”
With top class managerial candidates already with a job and Chelsea leading the race to sign Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, the situation at Old Trafford is tricky. Follow the contingency plan and give club legend but inexperienced Ryan Giggs the reigns or appoint a former rival in Mourinho?
“Maybe you remember also the first years of Fergie (sic),” were the words of Louis van Gaal when asked if he was worried about his job at the helm of Manchester United, referring to the poor start Sir Alex Ferguson between 1986 and 1990 as manager. He seems to forget that Ferguson went on to coach the club for 27 years and had it not been for personal circumstances, would still be in the Dutchman’s position, and not watching Deigo Costa’s late equalizer from the stands.