Old boy Stam relishes return to Old Trafford

Jaap Stam.
Jaap Stam.

LONDON • Jaap Stam returns to Manchester United today with the Reading manager plotting an FA Cup giant-killing at the club that sold him when he fell out with Alex Ferguson.

The 44-year-old former central defender, who won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the 1999 Champions League during his three-year stay at United, has impressed in his first job in England, guiding Reading to the cusp of the automatic promotion places to the Premier League.

However, his Royals confront a United side that are FA Cup holders and are beginning to gel under Jose Mourinho at last.

They have put together a run of seven successive victories in all competitions and are unbeaten in 13 matches, the longest run since March 2013 under Ferguson.

Stam, whose biography sparked the falling-out with the Scot and saw him sold to Lazio, said the third-round tie was not about him.

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  • Major trophies Jaap Stam won as a Manchester United player: • English Premier League (3) • English FA Cup (1) • European Champions League (1)

"Of course we're looking forward to it. It's a great draw, not only for me, but also for the players," he told Reading's website. "To play at Old Trafford in front of 80,000 people, against quality players in the FA Cup, a competition everyone wants to do well in, a trophy everybody wants to win, it's going to be nice.

"It'll be good to be back in Manchester. I still love the club, I love the fans, I had a great time over there and it's going to be good to be going back in this way.

"We're not saying we don't have a chance. Everybody has a chance. It's not about me, it's about Reading facing United at Old Trafford."

Mourinho revealed yesterday that United captain Wayne Rooney will start against Reading today.

The 31-year-old forward has not started a game since United's 2-0 Europa League win over Zorya Luhansk on Dec 8. He remains on 248 United goals, one behind Bobby Charlton's club record.

Mourinho also indicated that Argentinian Sergio Romero will start in place of usual No. 1 David de Gea.

While the United manager is rotating his players, he insisted that his side's next league clash - against arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Jan 15 - is not on his mind.

"In the FA Cup we don't need to go to Reading (for a replay), but it would be even worse if we were out of the competition in the first round. We have to try and win," the Portuguese told a press conference.

"We need points in the Premier League and got 18 in a short period of time. Now it is Reading and Hull in the (League Cup semi-final on Tuesday), both of which are very important. A busy time for us.

"We are in good situation with everyone available. Liverpool are after, but still a long time away."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Old boy Stam relishes return to Old Trafford'. Print Edition | Subscribe