Football

Jaap wants to Stam his mark

Reading boss says his high-flying Championship side have 'nothing to lose' against former club United

FA CUP 3RD ROUND
MAN UNITED READING

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

The 44-year-old Dutch former 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.

Reading are third in the Championship, eight points behind leaders Brighton after 24 games in Stam's first season at the club.

However, his Royals confront a United side who are the FA Cup holders and are beginning to gel under Jose Mourinho, putting together a run of seven successive victories in all competitions.

But Stam said that his side have "nothing to lose" against Mourinho's men and will arrive prepared to cause an upset.

"We're not saying we don't have a chance. Everybody has a chance," Stam told Reading's official website.

"But it's important that we prepare well for the game and, hopefully, we can do well and enjoy it."

Stam has urged the Royals to fight hard and not get intimidated against a United side unbeaten in all competitions since early November.

"We've got nothing to lose when we play there," said the former Holland international.

"We don't want to give the tie up - we will work very hard and we are going to fight for it.

I still love the club, I love the fans... and it's going to be good to be going back in this way. Jaap Stam (above) on his return to Old Trafford

"There is no need for the players to get nervous because of the crowd or the game - they need to enjoy it.

"Obviously, you enjoy it much more if you get a result, but this is an opportunity for the players, the team, the club to show themselves to the world in what we are trying to do here."

Widely regarded as one of the finest defenders to wear the United shirt, Stam will naturally advise his defenders on how to handle the Reds' top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has 18 goals this season and was this week voted the club's Player of the Month for December.

"He is big and you see a lot of defenders playing against a big striker like that; they try to anticipate and get in front of him every time to win that ball off him," said Stam.

PATIENCE

"But sometimes, you just need to be patient and let him have it. In the moment that he is trying to turn, then step in and try to win the ball.

"He is very fit and I think he is a great professional, so I was quite surprised by how people treated him at the beginning of the season because he has shown everybody, even when he wasn't at United, that he is one of the best strikers in the world."

Tonight's match will also pit Stam against Mourinho and he is relishing the challenge of facing a manager he has great respect for.

"I like him as a person and a character. I think he has done a great job stepping into United, with how it was and how people reacted to the team," said Stam.

"It was not the easiest club after Fergie left. But he has done a great job so far.

"He is a type of manager who has a certain philosophy. Players know what to expect and what they need to do for him."

Stam, whose biography sparked the falling-out with Ferguson and saw him sold to Lazio in 2001, said the third-round clash was not about him.

"It's a great draw, not only for me, but also for the players," he said.

"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." - WIRE SERVICES

Manchester UnitedReading FCFA Cup