Mourinho gives mentor Van Gaal the Blues
Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho are two football managers with big personalities and even larger lists of accomplishments.
Between them, they have overseen the capture of 42 pieces of silverware, including three Champions League titles and 13 league crowns in top flights around Europe.
It was at Barcelona that Mourinho made his initial foray into management, first under Bryan Robson and then Van Gaal.
The Dutchman encouraged Mourinho to adopt his managerial style and the Portuguese tactician took his teachings from the Camp Nou to Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and then back to Chelsea and the hotly contested Premier League.
It’s fitting that these two giants of management go head-to-head for only the second time at historic Old Trafford in a fixture that oozes class and heralds more anticipation than almost any other game.
Mourinho heads into the encounter holding all the aces, with the league-leading Blues boasting a strong defence, a well-rounded midfield and a number of options up front.
Conversely, United have failed to hit their straps this season, with Van Gaal conceding that his request to be judged after three months was a mistake.
However, despite their penchant for calamitous defensive showings, United find themselves in sixth, the position in which they finished the 2012/13 campaign, some 10 points off the pace.
But on Monday night, United’s defence was once again shown up and it’s this frailty that could see Mourinho adopt different tactics from those he employed against the Red Devils last season.
The Portuguese maestro tends to put out defensive formations away from home in order to avoid defeat. Indeed, the Blues left Manchester last season with a draw, a result, which, on reflection at the end of the campaign, seemed like two points dropped. It’s near impossible to decipher the truth regarding spearhead Diego Costa’s fitness, but dodgy hamstring and stomach bug aside, if the Spaniard features today, he will no doubt run rings around the United back-four. And with Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard pulling the strings from midfield, the hallowed halls of Old Trafford may turn out to be the site of a bloodbath.
It would be foolish to write off United completely, though, as they too possess a potent arsenal of attacking weapons.
However, if nothing is happening – defensively or offensively - behind Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie (the third member of United’s much-vaunted attacking trio, Wayne Rooney, is suspended), then there is little hope for Van Gaal’s troops.
United need a defining victory to kick-start their campaign, but against a rampant Chelsea, they once again appear doomed to suffer another weekend of woe.
CRUNCH CLASH Chelsea’s Ramires (right) and Manchester United’s Rafael go head-to-head
MASTER Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (right) and assistant Ryan Giggs
STUDENT José Mourinho