Jaap Stam’s Departure from Manchester: When Even Sir Alex Got it Wrong

Jaap Stam’s Departure from Manchester: When Even Sir Alex Got it Wrong

22/03/24 09:59

Sir Alex Ferguson is considered one of the greatest managers of all time. Jaap Stam is considered as one of the greatest defenders of his generation. He is regarded very highly by everyone he has played with and has many accolades to his name. Yet somehow, he was shockingly sold to Lazio after just three years at Manchester United and was informed of the decision with a phone call in his car.

In 2001, Jaap Stam had already helped Man United win a treble and had cemented his name in their history books. He had even won two UEFA Defender of the Year awards in the 3 years that he had been at the English club. However, the release of his autobiography “Head to Head” changed everything for the Dutchman. There were certain controversial statements in the book that didn’t go down too well with Sir Alex like the claim that Sir Alex tapped him up when he was at PSV. Whilst Jaap did try to explain himself to the coach, claiming that the book was less of an autobiography and more of a guide to how the team worked together as a unit in the dressing room, the manager was still not impressed.

In Jaap’s own words, this is how his departure went down :

“I went in a few days later and had a meeting with Ferguson that didn’t go well and I told him I’m going home for a few days. On the way back, though, I got a call from my agent and told him I was heading home but he said ‘They’ve already sold you’ and I replied, what?”

He then went on to claim that SAF met him at a petrol station to convey the final decision to him. A decision that the Scottish manager himself admits was a mistake. Stam joined Lazio for a fee of £16.5m pounds and the Dutchman went on to have a successful career, even playing for AC Milan during his stay. In 2007, Sir Alex was asked about which former player he regretted letting go the most and his answer was: “Jaap Stam, absolutely. I made a big mistake with that decision.”

Despite the rather anticlimactic ending, Jaap Stam’s time in England was very impressive and he’s considered one of the greatest defenders in Premier League history. When you manage a club for 26 years, you are bound to make a few mistakes, even if you are as impeccable as SAF. There were controversies like Roy Keane’s shocking departure in 2009, but the handling of Jaap Stam will always take the cake for me. One of the biggest what ifs in football, surely.


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