Supermarket Stam And The Plates Of Meat That Couldn`t Run Enough After Him
Supermarket Stam And The Plates Of Meat That Couldn`t Run Enough After Him
Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, decided to sell Jaap Stam, his central defesive rock, to Lazio of Italy in 2001 after the club`s third successive championship win. The centre back, who had arrived from PSV Eindhoven for the 1998-99 season, was just 29 years old. Manchester United had won four trophies with Jaap Stam by the end of the 1999 season, the league title, the F.A. Cup, European and Intercontinental (World Club) Cups. Before Jaap left at the end of the 2000-01 term, he had defended the league title won in 1999 twice. Luring Ruud Van Nistelrooy to Old Trafford`s stadium, the `Theatre Of Dreams`, with the promise of a strong defence from which to score goals fearlessly because of Jaap, his compatriot Durchman at the centre of defence, Ruud Van Nistelrooy had the turf sold out from under him as Stam was offloaded with almost indecent haste by Alex Ferguson to Lazio as soon as Ruud arrived from PSV. Blamed for the team`s lack of silverware between 2001 and 2007, when Manchester United won the title once only in 2002-03, Nistelrooy had to labour under the handicap of a central defence impoverished by the absence of Jaap.
When Serbian centre half, Nemanja Vidic, arrived from Spartak Moscow in January 2006, the defence was shored up well enough for the forwards to be effective at last, which meant the team were vulnerable at the back needlessly for a period of time equal to the trophyless gap between the club`s winning of the European Cup in 1968 and the F.A. Cup Final win of 1977. That win, 2-1, to deny Liverpool the treble of league, F.A. Cup and European Cup, which Manchester United themselves would achieve in 1999 with Jaap Stam`s commanding presence at the back, was recognized as an era of mediocrity resulting from centre back Bill Foulkes` (1951-71) retirement. Bill`d been at right full back for Manchester United in the championship seasons of 1955-56 and 1956-57, but had switched to centre half after the death of Mark Jones, England`s centre back, on February 6, 1958, in Munich, Germany, when the club lost many of its players to the grave on the snow and ice of the airport runway after a European Cup tie. The plane carrying the team back to Manchester, from a 3-3 draw against Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia, had crashed on take off.
Bill Foulkes survived to play on at centre half for Manchester United in the F.A. Cup Final win against Leicester City, 3-1, in 1963, and in the championship seasons of 1964-65 and 1966-67, which was followed the next season by victory in the European Cup Final over Benfica of Portugal, 4-1, at England`s national stadium, Wembley, London. The traditional half back line of right half, left half and centre half was disappearing from modern soccer, and Bill Foulkes retired in 1971 as the new format of paired centre backs was emerging as the defensive paradigm in English football. The team failed to readjust to the new mode of play, partly due to Bill Foulkes` retiring without a capable successor.
Manchester United struggled to recover for almost two decades after losing Foulkes at centre half. Although Scot Ian Ure came from Arsenal (1969-71), and Jim Holton (1972-76) was the centre half in the 1974 World Cup Finals when the Scots` team didn`t progress to the second round but remained undefeated, it was former midfield tiger, England`s Brian Greenhoff (1973-79), who made a real fist of it as half of Manchester United`s back pair alongside Martin Buchan (1972-83), who came from Aberdeen in February, 1972, for a then club record fee of 120, 000 GBP, but it wouldn`t be until Alex Ferguson paired centre halves, Steve Bruce (1987-1996) from Norwich City and Gary Pallister (1989-98) from Middlesboro`, that Manchester United would have the blended and balanced modern day right and left halves to replace the old formula of a big strong centre half flanked by right and left halves. When Alex deemed Jaap Stam surplus to requirements and transferred him away from the `Theatre Of Dreams` in 2001, history was repeating itself. The Dutchman was widely regarded as the best central defender in the world and the rock upon which Manchester United had just built three successive league title campaigns, including 1999`s quadruple, alongside Norway`s Ronnie Johnsen (1996-2002), whose retirement from the back line through injury began shortly after:
`We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5m for a centre-back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. But in playing terms it was a mistake.`1
Although Wes Brown (1997-2011) was described by Alex Ferguson as `the best natural defender at the club`, he was prone to injury. Frenchman Mikael Silvestre (1999-2008) was a left back by trade and central defence wasn`t his forte although it was his preferred position since his departure from Internazionale of Milan. Alongside Wes Brown, who often played right back for Manchester United, the left foot of left back Mikael Silvestre represented the ideal of right and left halves playing together rather than the traditional big centre half. Henning Berg (1997-2000), the big Norwegian centre back, had been bought by Alex from 1994-95 champions, Blackburn Rovers, to strengthen Manchester United`s central defense in terms of the new philosophy of squad rotation and depth of resources to be deployed, but the tradition of the giant centre half at Manchester United was disappearing.
In 2001 Jaap Stam`s loss from the centre of defence by the side of the dependable Ronnie Johnsen would continue to be felt until Serbian centre back, Nemanja Vidic, arrived in January, 2006, to fit in beside England`s Rio Ferdinand (2002-), who`d arrived from Leeds United without a recognizable half back partner and, although winning a championship medal in his first season of 2002-03, Nemanja Vidic wouldn`t properly bolster the defence alongside Rio until the commencement of the 2006-07 season when Manchester United had finally found a replacement pairing for Bruce and Pallister, known affectionately to those standing faithfully behind the home goal in the Stretford End as `Dolly, the sheep` and `Daisy, the cow`.
Wes Brown`s versatility in defence remained a plus factor in Manchester United`s campaigning but injury dogged his career. Many believed Rio Ferdinand lost Manchester United the chance to retain the 2002-03 title, when he effectively refused to take a drugs` test and was banned for most of 2003-04. Only the 2006 League Cup came into Manchester United`s hands, 4-0, against Wigan after the 2004 F.A. Cup win over Millwall, 3-0, with Brown and Silvestre at the heart of the defence. Nemanja Vidic came on as a substitute for Rio Ferdinand`s defensive partner, Wes Brown, in the 83rd minute against Wigan in the 2006 League Cup Final victory and that was the turning point for Manchester United; although many still blamed Rio for the club`s failure to win the league title between 2003 and 2007.
Because of a lack of defensive capability until Ferdinand and Vidic`s partnership began in 2006, Ruud Van Nistelrooy`s goals weren`t measured as highly as they deserved in number of trophies won after he arrived in 2001. Manchester United were in the throes of offloading old striking powers, Andy Cole (1995-2001), Teddy Sheringham (1997-2001) and Dwight Yorke (1998-2002), who`d knocked in goals for titles alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in seasons 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, and 2000-01. With deep lying French centre forward, Eric Cantona, retiring after his fourth title in 1996-97, following successes in 1992-93, his first season after arriving for 1.1 m GBP from champions Leeds United, 1993-94 and 1995-96, which included F.A. Cup wins and the `double` in 1994 and 1996, almost all of Manchester United`s goalscoring talent, with the exception of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, had disappeared. When Ruud Van Nistelrooy arrived from Holland for the 2001-02 season, he discovered Alex Ferguson had betrayed him by selling centre back, Jaap Stam, to Lazio. Manchester United`s progress had suffered a setback, which lasted half a decade and would eventually result in Van Nistelrooy`s own departure from the stage at Manchester`s Old Trafford stadium, the `Theatre Of Dreams`.
Manchester United won the English championship but once more before 2006-07 following the team`s successive title victories of 1999-2001, and after the sale of Jaap Stam in 2001 greeted the arrival of striker, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, for the 2001-2002 campaign. Alex Ferguson`s decision to replace Jaap Stam, 29, with Frenchman, Laurent Blanc, 35, now seems suicidal in hindsight, as Jaap Stam`s eventual replacement, Rio Ferdinand, didn`t arrive until 2002-03. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who`d operated mainly as a reserve and substitute striker, with great success, couldn`t handle the pressure to score goals regularly as a first choice partner for Ruud Van Nistelrooy after the Dutch forward`s arrival. Alex Ferguson`s reinforcement, Paraguayan centre forward, Diego Forlan, who was transferred from Argentina`s Independiente for 6.9 m GBP in January 2002, was expected to fill the role Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had held, but didn`t measure up as a prolific goalscoring reserve and substitute strike partner for either Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which, combined with a shaky defence and Solskjaer`s failure to live up to his own prolific striking legend when promoted from the substitutes` bench, hindered Manchester United`s campaigning from 2001 onwards.
Though blamed for Manchester United`s lack of success between 2001 and 2007, Ruud Van Nistelrooy had to cope with the loss of Jaap Stam and then Rio Ferdinand for most of the 2003-04 season when the team were looking to retain the championship and win the European Cup but had to settle for the F. A. Cup Final win over Millwall, 3-0, with two goals from Ruud, a penalty in the 65th minute, and a tap in after a pinpoint centre from Ryan Giggs wide on the left wing in the 81st minute after Cristiano Ronaldo had begun the scoring with a 44th minute headed goal just before half time. By the time Ruud Van Nistelrooy was paired with new striker, Wayne Rooney, who arrived as an 18 year old centre forward from Everton for the 2004-05 campaign, injury prone French striker, Louis Saha, brought from Fulham, halfway through the 2003-04 season, was the third striker. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who`d been, and still was, a proficient goalscorer since his arrival from Norway`s Molde for the championship winning season of 1996-97, and the last title success before his and the team`s consecutive triumphs (1999-2001), retained the fourth striker`s position, while Portuguse right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, who`d been brought from Sporting Lisbon of Portugal in 2003, was beginning to look capable of outscoring any one or all of them.
When Louis Saha played alongside Wayne Rooney in the League Cup Final of 2006 and Manchester United beat Wigan, 4-0, with goals from Rooney (33, 61), Saha (55) and Ronaldo (59), Ruud Van Nistelrooy was dropped to the substitutes` bench having scored 95 goals in 150 league appearances. The previous season he`d managed only 6 goals in 17 league games due to injury, but scored 21 in 2005-06, which was one goal better than 2003-04 and compared favourably with 2001-02 (23) and 2002-03 (25). Ruud Van Nistelrooy was recovering from a bad time in which he`d begun without a valued central defender, Jaap Stam (2001), lost another, Rio Ferdinand (2003-04), and experienced an injury ravaged season (2004-05), before returning to form.
Nemanja Vidic`s arrival in 2006 should have been a cause for celebration for Ruud Van Nistelrooy but Alex Ferguson had decided Rooney, Saha, Solskjaer and Ronaldo would be enough for the championship campaign of 2006-07, which they were. Cristiano Ronaldo top scored with 17 while Wayne Rooney got 14. Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer weighed in with 8 and 7 respectively and Manchester United were champions again but would rue Ruud, because he couldn`t be faulted, and had been held to be at fault for what he couldn`t help. Jaap Stam, three times winner of a championship medal at Manchester United, as well as the European Cup, F.A. Cup and Club World Cup (1999-2001), didn`t get to play in the team with Ruud Van Nistelrooy when the Dutch striker arrived for the 2000-01 season, and that was a football tragedy.