Football

Dutch death knell?

Match against compatriot Hiddink could be United boss van Gaal's last

MAN UNITED v CHELSEA

(Tomorrow, 1.30am, SingTel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)

Manchester United against Chelsea has often been a seminal fixture in deciding the destiny of the Premier League title in recent years, but tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) clash at Old Trafford has a very different backdrop.

United have slipped to sixth in the standings following four successive defeats - the club's worst run within a season since 1961 - while champions Chelsea languish in 15th place after a dismal start to the campaign that brought about the dismissal of their manager Jose Mourinho almost two weeks ago.

United manager Louis van Gaal hinted after United's feeble 2-0 loss at Stoke City last Saturday that he could quit before being forced to relinquish the hot seat and the game against Chelsea, managed by his Dutch compatriot Guus Hiddink, could well be his last.

That Mourinho has been strongly linked with a move to the Theatre of Dreams adds another intriguing sub-plot to the game and the United players know they must step up.

CLARION CALL

"It's Manchester United we are playing for, it's a special club and it's a privilege to play. We need to do better, it's as simple as that," midfielder Michael Carrick said after the Stoke game.

"We have got another game quickly to get ourselves ready for and we have got to stand up and be ready for that."

Hiddink led Chelsea to an unconvincing 2-2 home draw with Watford in his first game in charge.

"Every Chelsea versus Manchester United game is big but this one is especially, of course," he said after the stalemate.

"I hope we can show the same ambition there that we showed in a big part of this game.

"We are going there for the win."

Chelsea did fight back from 2-1 down against Watford thanks to two goals from striker Diego Costa, who will miss the United game due to suspension.

Loic Remy is expected to deputise against the Red Devils.

Van Gaal left his captain Wayne Rooney on the substitutes' bench against Stoke and his introduction prompted an improved performance after a shambolic first half in which the hosts scored twice.

The England striker has endured a frustrating season in a team that have failed to play with any of the attacking brio that brought United 13 Premier League titles under manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

That conservative style has turned the United fans against van Gaal more than the disappointing results.

If they fail to beat Chelsea, it is highly likely that the club will be taking a third shot at finding a worthy successor to Ferguson.

If that's the case, former United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich feels that Mourinho is indeed the man to return the club to the top.

The Australian told talkSPORT: "Originally when Sir Alex Ferguson retired I thought he (Mourinho) would have been the best choice to go for then.

"I know a lot of people have their doubts but the bottom line is he is one of the best managers in the world.

"Everywhere he has gone during his career he has won trophies and, if you speak to the majority of Manchester United fans, they just want to get back to the glory days when they were in the hunt for the major trophies." - Wires Services.

"We have to get our heads right for Monday. If we get a good win then the feeling comes back. Hopefully we will be able to kick on from that."

— Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick

"You can say we can quickly get over this defeat by playing against Chelsea but in the time in between, you have to recover because the players have given everything. Then you have to manage that you are very confident to start the Chelsea game, and that you dare to play football — our football. It is very difficult to do that in just two days but we shall try."

— Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal

eplGuus Hiddinklouis van gaalManchester UnitedCHELSEA (EPL)