By Mark Weasley
Manchester United host Reading in The FA Cup on Saturday at Old Trafford, hoping to extend their current run of form, that has seen them close the gap on the teams above them in the league as the race for Champions League places hots up.
The Royals are managed by Jaap Stam, who played for The Red Devils from 1997-2001, but was controversially sold by then manager, Sir Alex Ferguson who felt the player betrayed his trust after making allegations in his autobiography that the legendary manager didn’t go through the right channels to sign him from PSV Eindhoven.
The former player, now turned manager has earned plaudits for his impact on Reading, as the Barcelona-esque, possession based football he craves due to his Dutch background is a sharp contrast to the gung-ho, high octane football being played by the other sides in the Championship.
Though Manchester United are favourites to win the game, Reading would have a say as they have won eight out of ten games since losing at Arsenal in the EFL Cup fourth round back in October. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all stepped up to the plate in recent weeks, but Reading would offer a stern test.
Stam was part of the treble winning side of 1999 and was impeccable at the back, as United won three consecutive titles in his time at Old Trafford. Sixteen years on, he will return and get the love of the fans who have still not quite forgiven Sir Alex Ferguson for selling him back then.
Sir Alex Ferguson has since stated his regret for sanctioning the move sixteen years ago, and has reportedly mended his relationship with the former Netherlands centre back and Jaap Stam may finally get the adulation he deserves after his time at United, and controversial exit.
He would love to knock out Manchester United, as it would serve as penance for their “sins”. It won’t go down well with the fans who hold him in high esteem, but Stam would feel all is forgiven.
Justice, it is said, can be delayed, not denied.