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Mar 3, 2009

Hiddink would ''love'' to stop United quintuple

Guus Hiddink has brought back memories of Kevin Keegan's famous ''I would love it'' rant, by claiming that he would ''love'' to see his current Chelsea side prevent Manchester United from completing a unique quintuple of trophies this season.

The Red Devils, with something short of a first-choice starting XI, beat Tottenham Hotspur on penalties at Wembley on Sunday to lift the Carling Cup, while they also secured the FIFA Club World Cup title in Japan just before Christmas.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men are well placed in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League to win an unprecedented haul of five trophies, but now have Chelsea breathing down their necks after the Blues leapfrogged Liverpool at the weekend.

Keegan famously uttered the immortal line ''I would love it if we beat them, love it'' during the 1996 title battle in which his Newcastle United team lost out to Ferguson's side. And Hiddink, despite being seven points adrift of the champions, remains optimistic of overhauling the Old Trafford.

''I hope that we can stop him. I would love to stop him on this aim,'' said the Dutchman, who is in charge of Chelsea until the end of the season. ''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.''

Hiddink is impressed with the strength in depth United have been able to show, as the likes of England duo Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick were left out altogether at Wembley while reserve goalkeeper Ben Foster proved the hero in the shoot-out.

He said: ''They have been a very dominant, organised club for many years. It's a good philosophy, in my opinion. Other clubs may try to go the same way - some clubs have their own academies as well, like this club.

''You want to make your players competitive for the first-team squad, as well.''

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, completing the whole game and scoring in a 4-3 defeat.

''It is good for a manager to have a full squad. You can pick people out of luxury. That's a nice problem,'' said Hiddink. ''That is good with Essien coming back. As I have seen him in training sessions, he is close, very close.

''We will have some more options and we can look to the players regarding shape and tactics, but you can make some variations.''

Hiddink has won all three of his matches since taking charge at Stamford Bridge and has been impressed by the response of the Chelsea players, who fought back to beat Wigan Athletic with a stoppage-time goal from Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The Dutchman, who remains coach of Russia, has no intentions of staying longer than the end of the season, but is clearly enjoying his time in England.

''I know the demands are high. I am not going back, lying down and lighting a cigar,'' he said. ''I demand high as well for my group where I have my influence, but I like the approach to football here in England. I like the approach, the professionalism at every level. The man in the street understands football perfectly.''

Hiddink, though, remains committed to helping Russia's progress in the long term.

''I would like to finish this project with these guys with whom I have been working for several years,'' he said. ''It is not just down to contractual obligations. I want to do it.''

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