Posts Tagged ‘Van Gaal’

LVG Bailed Out By Blind!
United Look Lost Tactically As Rooney is Wasted Out Wide

by Rob Shepherd.

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Louis van Gaal was left scratching his head at Upton Park

Louis van Gaal had the look of the emperor with new clothes as West Ham outplayed, outfought and out-thought Manchester United – until, that was, the final minutes when he was bailed out by Daley Blind.

United had been bereft of any attacking ideas despite what had seemed, on the face of it, fielding a team of offensive possibilities. At times it was a bit like the blind leading blind until Blind’s intervention.

But just when it seemed the Hammers had done enough to earn a deserved victory – they had indeed wasted a couple of late chances to seal it – Blind picked up the pieces of a half-cleared free-kick and did what none of the United forwards had managed all afternoon by producing an emphatic finish.

On the evidence of this though Van Gaal needs to get back to his whiteboard, and whatever other tools he uses, and find a formation that works. More to the point, one that doesn’t waste Wayne Rooney.

A couple of weeks ago, Van Gaal declared that playing 4-4-2 gave him a twitchy ‘a***’, saying that he felt more secure with a 3-5-2 or a variant of it. It was certainly a squeaky-bum afternoon for the United manager.

It was a turn-up for the books when Van Gaal fielded an unchanged team from their previous Premier League match; last week’s 3-1 home win over Leicester.

And it was once again 4-4-2 with a twist… the midfield was set out in a diamond shape. In that respect, you could describe the formation as 4-1-2-1-2.

Blind operated as the anchor man ahead of a back four, Rooney played towards the right, Adnan Januzaj to the left, with Angel di Maria roaming in the hole behind two front-runners Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.

It is seen as a way of of getting all of United’s best attackers in the same team but as the game started to take shape it didn’t work that way, and Rooney looked lost most of the time.

The England captain found himself shuttling up and down, somewhere between right-midfield and and inside-right, and often embroiled in a battle with West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan.

If Rooney is deployed in a deeper role surely it should be more advanced, in the hole. Indeed it wasn’t long before it appeared United would have been better served had Rooney and Di Maria swapped roles. After all, Di Maria is naturally a wide player who thrives when he has space ahead of him to exploit his pace and trickery running at defenders.

As it was, the Argentine found it hard to find space, constantly crowded out by West Ham’s busy midfield and a direct pathway to Van Persie and Falcao was usually blocked by Alex Song who played the holding role for the Hammers. It meant United’s two strikers were starved of service not least because of a lack of width.

Rooney was reluctant to go wide, and his passing was too often square and safe. Januzaj just couldn’t get into the game.

Rooney looked lost played out wide

Rooney looked lost played out wide

Nor did the front two do much to help themselves. Both Van Persie and and Falcao were too static, making it easy for James Tomkins and make-shift centre-back Cheikhou Kouyate to keep them under wraps.

What, on paper, seemed to be a team full of attacking possibilities could not even get close to opening up the West Ham defence in the first half; keeper Adrian only having to make one save of note from a speculative Di Maria shot.

In contrast, West Ham’s similar diamond system was more fluid and full of possibilities. That was because West Ham’s two strikers Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho offered much more movement, as did Stewart Downing who operated as the tip of the diamond

While Di Maria was bogged down in the middle, Downing roamed around with menace and flitted from wing to wing.

Injury to Andy Carroll meant that Valencia and Sakho started together for the first time since the beginning of the season when Carroll wasn’t fit. Their pace, energy and finishing was one of the main reasons the Hammers got off to such a good start.

And there was a good case to argue that Carroll’s absence was a blessing of sorts. Without the long high-ball option into the big centre-forward, West Ham played a much slicker passing game, and the two strikers were a constant threat.

Kouyate-goal

Kouyate fired West Ham ahead

While United’s defence looks far more sound and settled than it was at the start of the campaign – ironically with a back four that Van Gaal does not favour – there were still several alarms in the first half; West Ham just lacked a precise final ball or finish.

But that changed just four minutes after the break. Indecision in United’s defence from a set-piece, and weak work by Rooney, allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to bring the ball down from a free-kick, before swivelling to lash home. It was an exciting finish, but it was poor defending.

United responded by upping their tempo – but only a bit. It was still too predictable, lacking in pace and nous. And Van Gaal offered nothing in any inspiration from the sidelines. He just sat in his seat on the bench and stared blankly. His only idea to change things was to take off Januzaj and bring on Marouane Fellaini.

Van Gaal claimed the introduction of Fellaini was a ‘plan B’ but all it amounted to was United hitting more long balls. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce couldn’t resist smirking at the irony of that .

In the end the only way he could see United getting back into the game was to go route one.

So much for the tactical genius of the supposed Dutch master.

@iLShep

 

Louis van Gaal can Forget Winning the Title at Manchester United with 3-5-2

by Rob Shepherd.

Louis van Gaal insists the way forward for Manchester United is to ditch the 4-4-2 formation.

If that is the case then it would seem unlikely United will ever win the English league title under their Dutch manager.

Why..? Just take the Premier League years for a start.

Since its inception in 1992 every title winner – Manchester United, Blackburn, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – have played with four at the back.

Mostly their formations have been 4-4-2, with variations on that theme.

In recent seasons there has been a move to 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 and twists to those basic shapes often in the guise of an anchor midfielder. But the bedrock has been the same: four at the back.

And, prior to that, no team that won the old First Division did so playing with three at the back on a regular basis.

There were occasions in the Eighties and Nineties when Liverpool –Lawrenson. Hansen, Gillespie – and Arsenal – Bould, O’Leary, Adams (and later Keown) did play 3-5-2 on their way to titles, although in the case of the Gunners under George Graham it was more like 5-3-2. 

This five at the back line-up was at times akin to the famous catenaccio tactic favoured in Italy for decades until AC Milan swept all before them with 4-4-2.

24FB81D000000578-2923481-image-a-32_1422022605482But essentially you would have to go back to the 1950s to see when three at back was the rule rather than the exception in England as the old ‘W-M’ formation evolved into what became the accepted shape of a team numbered one to 11 (pictured right).

1 Goalkeeper, 2 Right back, 3 Left back, 4 Right half, 5 Centre half, 6 Left half, 7 Right winger, 8 Inside right, 9 Centre forward, 10 Inside left, 11 Left winger.

This was 2-3-2-3 or 3-2-2-3 depending how deep the centre half sat.

It was under Ron Greenwood at West Ham at the start of the Sixties that 4-4-2 was really born in England when he withdrew his No 6 (a certain Bobby Moore) to play alongside the centre half in the role of attacking centre back rather than defensive midfielder.

Four at the back then became de rigueur. Most teams played 4-2-4, which is 4-4-2 with attacking wingers. But after ditching his during England’s 1966 World Cup win, Alf Ramsey and his ‘wingless wonders’ defined for some time the English way.

Van Gaal has said this system makes his ‘ass twitch’ because it unbalances his Manchester United team, even though they have won more games this season playing that way than in any other shape. 

Although Van Gaal never played a senior match for Ajax he was brought up in the Sixties and Seventies at the club which became famed for creating Total Football. It was essentially a fluid 3-4-3 which came to the fore with Holland at the 1974 World Cup finals.

The great irony is that the man who would have created Van Gaal’s mistrust in the English way was, well, English.

The guru of Total Football – according to the kingpin of Ajax and Holland at the time, Johann Cruyff – was Victor Frederick Buckingham who was born in London in 1915.

Buckingham played as a wing half for Tottenham between the wars. In 1959 he quit as West Bromwich Albion manager to take over at Ajax for two seasons. He returned for another spell in 1964 setting down the Total Football template.

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Holland’s formation in the World Cup of 1974 was a fluid 3-4-3 with Cruyff the star man up front

While Cruyff dismisses Van Gaal as a control freak he eulogises about Buckingham, who at the start of the Seventies was manager of Barcelona (yes, really), the club where Cruyff would star as a player then a coach, laying down the foundations of the mighty team we have seen in recent years.

But Barca even in this ‘modern era’ (as if men like Buckingham were not ‘modern’ in their day ) play four at the back, although their shape like great rivals Real Madrid is a 4-3-3.

In short it’s the surest way of defending across the width of the pitch. If you have attacking full backs in that system then you have to have one or perhaps two midfielders who are prepared to hold. That’s also known as flexibility.

Of course it is naive to label and pigeon-hole formations. At any given time of a game you will see one shape morphing into another. But even the best teams need a starting shape. 

Essentially the great Brazil team of 1970 was 4-4-2. But with so many great players and great movement the front six was more a carousel than a system.

There is another irony here: at international tournaments since 1966 England have performed better when ditching 4-4-2.

In 1990 under Bobby Robson and then France 98 under Glenn Hoddle England played with 3-5-2 sweeper system, more like Germany of those days, and did well.

Although Terry Venables’s ‘christmas tree’ system at Euro 96 had a back four it was a long way from rigid straight lines of 4-4-2 that can limit a team and even promote the long ball as it did in Graham Taylor’s England.

But, as wise managers will say, the bottom line is identifying what shape suits your players best. Generally the better players a manager has, the better his team will be.

Glenn-Hoddle-001

Hoddle was a regular user of the 3-5-2.

For a while at Swindon and then Chelsea, Hoddle saw some success with 3-5-2. Harry Redknapp has used the system with various teams from time to time. Howard Wilkinson did so at Notts County and then Sheffield Wednesday. But they are exceptions and not the rule.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United enjoyed season after season of success using 4-4-2, often with a twist, which usually saw the second striker operate as a No 10.

The rest of Fergie’s tactics were pretty straightforward: a back four, two central midfielders working in tandem (one ‘sticks’ if the other ‘twists’), two attacking wide men, an ‘inside forward’ and a centre forward.

Yet 4-4-2 gives Van Gaal a twitchy ass?

The Dutchman says it affects the balance of the team. Perhaps that’s because he has got the balance of his squad wrong. Either 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 just doesn’t seem to get the best of the talent he has at his disposal. As Gary Neville says it slows the team down too much.

The only time Fergie said he had a ‘twitchy ass’ – aka ‘squeaky bum time’ – was during the run-in for the title.

It’s a position clipboard-toting Van Gaal won’t be in this season. Whether he likes it or not, history proves that four at the back is the key to success in the Premier League.

@iLShep

 

Battle of the Bluffers
First Time in 25 Years Arsenal v United Has No Title Ramifications

by Roy Dalley.

Roy Keane’s dog will be well advised to steer clear when his master settles in front of the telly on Saturday night. Listen carefully and you might well hear the growls as Welbeck accepts manhugs, handslaps, best wishes and perhaps even a kiss on the cheek from his old Manchester United team-mates before the late kick-off at Arsenal.

It wasn’t always this lovey-dovey in the tunnel before and after this particular fixture, as Keane would bluntly testify. Once upon a time it was the prelude to Premier League titles, FA fines and suspensions, effing and blinding, pushing and shoving and the odd toss the pizza competition.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Last month was the 10th anniversary of a game so fondly recalled it has been awarded not one but two sobriquets: Pizzagate and Battle of the Buffet. It’s not just supporters who are still going on about it, the protagonists from both sides are also queuing up to reminisce to the media.

There’s now little doubt Fabregas was responsible for adding a few more autumnal colours to Sir Alex Ferguson’s features when a food fight broke out in the tunnel at Old Trafford. The flying pizza was the highlight in the aftermath of a defeat that brought to an end Arsenal’s unbeaten record of 49 matches (that, of course, had encompassed the entire previous season).

Wenger also ended up with egg on his face, at least metaphorically speaking, when he was fined £15,000 for calling Van Nistelrooy a cheat, and Reyes soon trooped back to Spain calling it the toughest game he’s ever known.

What makes the event even more remarkable is the fact Keane wasn’t even at Old Trafford that afternoon. He was nursing a stomach injury that was only compounded when news came through, as he recalled in his book: “I was gutted I missed the game, and all the fighting that went on in the tunnel afterwards.”

Quite.

Now though the rivalry means something very different; little more than a side note concerning who will make up the numbers in the Champions League places for next season. Indeed it’s now more a Battle of the Bluffers; Arsenal’s Wenger has already put on his best Gallic shrug and conceded the title, while United’s van Gaal wore a poker face while bravely insisting they can still overcome Chelsea at the top of the League.

To be fair to the Deluded Dutchman he made that declaration before last week’s international break, during which De Gea, Carrick and Blind all added their names to United’s injury list. Certainly Welbeck will greet his former colleagues with a huge smile, feeling very confident of extending his goalscoring run of form for new club and country.

He could also lend more weight to the thought United seriously blundered when they allowed the blossoming England striker to take his talents to Arsenal at the end of the last transfer window.

“Not at the required level,” was van Gaal’s cold assessment.

Words that could reverberate if United return to Manchester on Saturday night 16 points behind Chelsea…

@RoyDalley

 

Dream On, United
£200m Spent Since Departure of Sir Alex, But Success Still A Long Way Off

DiMaria_500x729

Luckily Di Maria has always wanted to play at centre-half apparently…

by Roy Dalley.

Insomnia might soon become the preferred option for many of those who have invested emotionally and financially in the Theatre of Dreams, Manchester.

It’s the place where one can buy a programme, a souvenir shirt, bedding, jewellery, DVD’s, cufflinks, toiletries and a wide variety of confectionaries before sitting down to watch a sprinkling of stars.

Forthcoming attractions include, at the greatest of expense, Argentine Angel Di Maria and England’s new captain Wayne Rooney, but look closer and you may notice the red velvet curtain is either threadbare or peppered by rather large holes. The footlights are dimmed now too many of the bulbs have either blown or been reduced to a flicker, and the stage seems too big for many of the supporting cast.

The dream now seems to focus only on the nightmares. Gone are vivid images of Best, Law and Charlton, Cantona, Beckham and Scholes, Busby and Ferguson, to be replaced by faceless blokes from backwaters like Swansea and Milton Keynes celebrating another waltz through United’s lines.

Di Maria’s arrival took the club’s expenditure to £200 million since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson little more than 15 months ago, yet it is doubtful the club will reach the standards set by their old Master of Ceremonies for a very long time.

Former defender Gary Neville reckons it could take two or three years to get back on top but others suspect it may be a good deal longer….

Cautionary tales abound. Some of us are ancient enough to remember the rise and fall of Leeds United, a sorry story that may yet plummet to even greater depths. Something similar, albeit swifter, befell Derby County and Nottingham Forest under the stewardship of Brian Clough. Many more will recall Ferguson famously toppling Liverpool from their perch nearly 25 years ago.

It already feels an awfully long time ago now that Ferguson walked onto the Old Trafford pitch to collect the club’s 20th league title while the stadium announcer bragged over the house p.a. about the trophy “returning to its rightful home.”

Many will argue Ferguson’s retirement was the catalyst for the club’s current fall from grace, yet the truth is United’s downward spiral began the moment the late Malcolm Glazer somehow managed to gain control of the club using little more than smoke and mirrors as collateral.

Di Maria's arrival impacts on rising star Januzaj

Di Maria’s arrival impacts on rising star Januzaj

Profits were diverted away from the club to pay off extraordinary levels of debt incurred by the Glazer takeover. Not even Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid for £80 million allowed Ferguson to rejuvenate his ageing and ailing squad. He hid behind corporate jargon such as there being “little value in the transfer market” while Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and even Arsenal stole a march on their old foe.

It now seems like false economy at best and foolish pride at worst, to such an extent that Di Maria’s arrival as the most expensive signing in the history of British football smacks of desperation. He’s a decent left-footer, of course, but how much better is he than Adnan Januzaj, perhaps the brightest young outfield prospect at the club..?

Will Di Maria’s presence stunt the progress of the Belgian international, or will manager Louis van Gaal be forced into abandoning his 3-5-2 formation in order to accommodate both in a 4-3-3? And if so where does that leave Juan Mata, another of United’s expensive signings..?

In any event, surely the £60 million it cost to secure Di Maria would have been more wisely invested in top quality central midfielders and defenders?

We will find out over the coming months and years. It is sure to be compulsive viewing, whether it be high art, serious drama or simply a comedy of errors.

@RoyDalley

 

World Cup Semi-Final Preview: LVG’s Messi Conundrum…

DeJong

De Jong could have a major say in how the semi-final turns out if Van Gaal decides to bring him in

by Rob Shepherd.

How to solve a problem like Lionel Messi..?

That is the question which will test the tactical acumen of Louis Van Gaal to the limit in the second semi-final of the 2014 World Cup.

And even if LVG got all his tactics spot on Messi has the ability to wriggle out of any shackle in a split second and change the game.

Perceived wisdom is that it is waste of time to man-mark Messi because the Argentine can lose that player in an instant then pull the rest of the team out of shape, or exploit his shadow by taking him out of the way to offer team mates room.

But given that LVG is considering a recall for Nigel de Jong he could well ask his acerbic midfielder to marshal Messi’s movement.

Then again the Dutch system of three central defenders with two wing backs (3-4-3) would seem ideally suited to confront Messi.

The semi ‘sweeper’ system – Ron Vlaar is more central centre-back than libero – means that he, Stefan de Vrij or Bruno Martins Indi can all step out of their back row roles into the midfield pocket where Messi stalks, often walks around, waiting to get the ball then go on his mazy way, comfortable there is cover behind to cope with the forwards.

If Holland’s three Lions keep their concentration and compress the space in front of them when Messi has the ball then he can be stopped.

Given the resilient nature of the Argentine defence it could unfold as an absorbing , chess like tactical battle – unlike the first semi-final!

Some bookmakers are offering as much as 1,000/1  for either team to win 7-1 in the wake of Germany’s astonishing win over Brazil.

But clearly Corals think lightening can strike twice and offer 300/1 on a repeat scoreline of last night’s semi final.

More realistically a 1-1 draw is 5/1 whilst a 0-0 is 7/1.

 

When Kempes Rocked the World! 

The images remain strong for those who recall the 1978 World Cup Final.

The pitch was strewn with white ticker tape, and then there was Mario Kempes, long dark curly hair like a rock star of the day, with socks around his ankles wearing Puma King.

Kempes had given hosts Argentinathe the lead, but with eight minutes left Holland equalised through Dick Nanninga. But Kempes restored Argentina’s lead and Daniel Bertoni made sure with a third. Highlights below;

Rob’s World Cup Wire
Louis by Numbers, Gerrard Can’t Play Quarterback & No Long-Shot Goals?!?

by Rob Shepherd.

England Have Record in Sight…

England are left clinging to the hope that Italy will beat Costa Rica tonight and then overcome Uruguay.

That way England could hatch a Great Escape with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

Stranger things have happened. But of course should they lose to Costa Rica then this would rank as England’s worst ever World Cup finals.

England have never lost all three group games at World Cup since first entering in 1950, although England did lose their three group games at the 1988 European Championships.

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Gary To Get The Call..?

Roy Hodgson has already batted-off the “Will you resign?” questions with a ‘No’.

Publicly the FA stand firm behind the manager, not least as chairman Greg Dyke suggested when he took over that a bloody nose was expected in Brazil but with a long term aim of a young side developing at Euro 2016 – and Hodgson is seen as the right man not least because there are no obvious or wiling replacements.

But there are some around the FA who are not convinced and there is a growing feeling that despite no experience at club level Gary Neville could fit the bill.

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Louis knows how to number his squad

Louis knows how to number a squad

Louis the Calculated

While Roy Hodgson tinkered with his system if not the personnel, Louis van Gaal is revealing to Manchester United fans one of his great strengths as a coach. He has a well thought-out plan and team in his mind and sticks to it: Holland had the same starting 11 for their first two wins and the starting eleven were numbered 1-11 – the only nation to have done so at this World Cup.

Talk about having a plan. It also suggests Van Gaal won’t succumb to Wayne Rooney deciding where he wants to play at Old Trafford.

 

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Fat Stats

It’s interesting to note that while Raheem Sterling was the stand out player against Italy and covered 6.52 miles, two England players covered more distance; Wayne Rooney (6.97) and Steven Gerrard (6.58).

Which just goes to show why that kind of stat is often meaningless…

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Keeping It Up Close

The have been some truly stunning goals at the his World Cup but precious few long range scorchers.

Holland’s late winner struck by Memphis Depay – whose name sounds like a Blues singer by the way – was a rarity. Thus far only 13 per cent of goals have been stuck from more than 20 yards.

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I-say:

Most of the debate leading up to England’s showdown with Uruguay revolved around Wayne Rooney and where he should play or if he should play at all.

That big debate has disguised the fact that  against Italy England skipper Steven Gerrard was far from a commanding figure and certainly didn’t pull any strings in his new ‘quarterback’ role as Andrea Pirlo did for Italy.

But in Gerrard’s defence he did hold his position and thus helped England keep their shape for most of the game.

Against Uruguay though Gerrard failed to take control again.

Roy Hodgson seemed afraid to sub his skipper and put on Frank Lampard who had the experience and nous to help turn things England’s way in midfield. It begs the question; what was the point in picking Lampard in the first place..?

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Out First Ball

Spain are the fifth World Cup holders to have been deposed at the first hurdle on their defence.

The previous four were Italy in 1950 (they had won in 1938 then the WWII intervened, Brazil in 1966, France in 2002 and Italy in 2010.

Four years in football is a very long time to fade.

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Costa Blue

Now that Spain are out Chelsea should at last complete the £32 million capture of striker Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid next week.

Blues fans will be hoping he doesn’t go a bit “Torres” on them and become known as Diego Costa-lot.

After all in 126 minutes of football in Brazil Costa has failed to register a single shot on target yet…

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Look Out For:

Costa Rica’s Arsenal “owned” striker Joel Campbell caught the eye in their opening win over Uruguay. He could well be the player to probe the Italian defence this evening but the player who might undermine the Italians and stick a knife into England is their right back Cristian Gamboa who is currently with Norwegian club Rosenborg but will no doubt be attracting the attention of a number of La Liga and PL clubs.

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Beat the Bookie

The bookies make Karim Benzema the favourite to draw first blood in France – Switzerland showdown at 9/2 to score the opening goal while his English-based comrades Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud are both priced at 11/2.

It should be a tight and cagey affair, so a HT/FT bet on Draw/France at 4/1 is tempting.

Brazil remain 7-2 favourites to win the tournament but  Holland have been cut but  to 11-1. Could this at long last be an Orange summer?

 

World Cup Moment 

It became on of the most tragic episodes in football history.

Much fancied Columbia  flopped at the 1994 World Cup finals not lest because of the influence drug cartels and betting syndicates around the squad.

They were knocked out when defender Andreas Escobar scored an own goal in defeat to the USA. A few days later, having returned home to Medellin, Escobar was shot dead outside a bar after a row with some gangsters.

The game is remembered for Escobar’s OG, but USA’s Earnie Stewart rounded off a fine move with a neat finish to put the American’s 2-0 up. Goals are below (complete with hilarious US commentary!).

@robshepherd5

The Apprentice at Work
Mourinho Plys His Trade Under The Watchful Eye of van Gaal

 

VanGaalMourinho2

Here’s a great shot of new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal from around 1998 whilst in charge of Barcelona, deep in conversation with his assistant at the time, a certain Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho arrived at the Nou Camp as Bobby Robson’s assistant in 1996. Robson guided Barca to a cup treble that season, winning the Copa del Rey, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the Supercopa de España. But Real Madrid pipped them to the title by 2 points, and that meant Robson, always viewed as a short-term appointment anyhow, could be moved on.

Robson quickly found work at PSV, but Barcelona insisted his young assistant stayed on to work with Robson’s successor; Louis van Gaal, the man the Catalans were waiting for all along.

Mourinho learnt much from the Dutchman’s diligent style. Both assistant and head coach combined well, their studious approach to the game saw Barcelona crowned La Liga champions twice in Van Gaal’s first two years as coach.

Van Gaal saw that his number two had a lot of promise. He let Mourinho develop his own style whilst coaching the Barcelona B side and also let him take charge of the first team for certain trophies, like the Copa Catalunya, which Mourinho won in 2000 with van Gaal supporting him in the role of assistant.

Soon after Benfica came calling for Jose, initially as assistant manager. Mourinho said “When I spoke with van Gaal about going back to Portugal to be an assistant at Benfica, he said: “No, don’t go. Tell Benfica if they want a first-team coach you will go; if they want an assistant you will stay.”

Mourinho did go to Benfica, and his opportunity to call the shots came quicker than anticipated after Jupp Heynckes was dismissed just four weeks into the season, and the man who would be later known as The Special One was promoted to his first managerial role. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next season he will go head to head with the man who – along with Sir Bobby Robson – helped shape him into the extraordinary success story of modern day football management. And while Mourinho will be looking to find the answers to his striking problems at Chelsea, van Gaal will be tasked with returning Manchester United to the force they were under Sir Alex Ferguson, which already seems a distant memory despite only being a year ago.

Roll on next season; their battles are set to be nothing short of fascinating…