A former protege overtakes the mentor. It happens often in sports and is inevitable as the best coaches look to surround themselves with, and attract, the most talented assistants. In the states, two examples that quickly come to mind are Bill Belichick and Bill Parcels of NFL fame, and Mike Krzyzeweki overtaking Bob Knight in college hoops coaching lore. In Europe the obvious example would be Jose Mourinho and the man he worked under for 3 years at Barcelona, Louis van Gaal. While both are among the elite of soccer coaches (and egos) the Portuguese man with his recent accomplishments has slipped ahead of the Dutchman. Even van Gaal went so far as to state so himself back in January (mind you, at a dinner to honor Jose), “I am always ‘the arrogant Louis van Gaal’ but now I am humble because now he is better than me.” The two men remain friends, perhaps because they have only faced each other competitively once over the years, in the 2010 champions league final (you know who won).
Sunday Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team visited Old Trafford to face Manchester United and their new coach Louis van Gaal. Chelsea had the opportunity to extend their lead over Manchester City, their cheif competition for the title (it’s a long season Southampton fans!), to 8 points. The edge going into the match was clearly with Chelsea and Jose. In his second year after returning to the club, Mourinho arrived confident he had built the team he needed to win the league, taking 22 out of a possible 24 points so far this season. Man United, on the other hand, is a team in transition with van Gaal trying to meld old and new talent and help his team find consistent form. The match carried out much as expected–two teams well organized, few clear cut opportunities, plenty of talent on display, and Chelsea the better team, in control and set to take all three points when United struck at the death to equalize and take a share of the points. The 10 yellow cards were not indicative of an particularly fractious affair and the two men greeted each other warmly post game, their friendship after their second competitive match still intact.