New Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink had a ‘Kevin Keegan moment’ without knowing it last week after the crucial 2-1 Premier League win over Wigan.
The Dutchman, who is only in charge until the end of the season, it seems has already realised what it would mean to stop Manchester United in their pursuit of a clean sweep of trophies.
“I hope that we can stop him. I would love to stop him on this aim,” said Hiddink.
“I have not had that many experiences with him directly, direct confrontations, although I remember once it was my birthday when PSV [Eindhoven] were eliminated by Manchester United.
“I have met him sometimes when I have been to Manchester United, for a couple of pre-season tournaments.
“I like him very much, although we don’t know each other very well. I respect him very much.”
Newcastle boss Keegan uttered similar words back in the 1995-96 season, when eventually the Magpies surrendered a 12-point lead to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in pursuit of the title.
Keegan was visibly rattled that day when his infamous outburst was aired live on Sky Sports, but Hiddink although saying similar words was far from ruffled at Stamford Bridge.
Since then his Chelsea side defeated Portsmouth 1-0 on Tuesday and sit four points behind United, who face Newcastle on Wednesday night.
Keegan certainly lost the plot in 1996, but Hiddink looks a far cooler customer and with Ferguson himself admitting United will slip up in the Premier League, the football odds of 12.5 about Chelsea pinching the title represent decent value.
Chelsea’s options could soon be boosted by the return of midfielder Michael Essien, who is on the brink of full fitness after long-term knee ligament problems and played for the reserves against Aston Villa on Monday night, completing the whole game and scoring in a 4-3 defeat.
Essien’s return will be another lift for Chelsea, who look reborn after the arrival of the Dutch tactician.
By Phil Tomlinson, a professional sports writer who blogs about football and football betting.
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