One of the top players in the treble-winning Manchester United side of 1999 has taken up management full time, and he’s doing it a lot better than Gary Neville.
While his former teammate Neville had a nightmare stint at Valencia in La Liga, former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam is earning plaudits in the Championship.
Stam embarked on his first head coach role at Reading earlier this summer. After a problematic beginning to the new season, Reading are now on a four-match winning streak and sit third in the Championship table.
What’s even more impressive is the fact that the minnows have achieved those results by playing a free-flowing, possession-based style of football that has earned comparisons to Barcelona and Manchester City. The Royals have averaged around 59.2% possession in the Championship thus far.
Even in the second tier of English football, this is remarkable for a team far less financially powerful than the likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Norwich City.
Dutchman Jaap Stam has integrated the philosophy he picked up in the latter stages of his professional career at Ajax. His compatriot Johan Cruyff is regarded as the innovator of ‘total football’, and Stam is now bringing that concept into the choppy waters of the Championship.
“It’s all fair having a philosophy but the attacking threat wasn’t there,” said former Wales international Adrian ‘Ady’ Williams, according to the Daily Mail. “Now we’re playing possession football but threatening. The penny is finally dropping with the players.
“There must have been times when Stam thought “let’s just go to 4-4-2 and lump it forward and score some goals” but he was adamant. Top-class managers all have their philosophies, they’re brave and stick to it and that’s what wins them trophies. Will there be bad times? 100 per cent. But they stick with it.”
Jaap Stam enjoyed some huge success with Manchester United, despite spending only three seasons there. He won the Champions League, FA Cup and three Premier League titles with the Red Devils, before leaving for Lazio in 2001.
Sir Alex Ferguson has since admitted that selling the Dutchman was a big mistake. Stam is now the latest in a long line of former players coached by Sir Alex to embark on managerial careers themselves.
Man United old boy Mark Hughes has had a successful career with Stoke City in the Premier League so far. Stam could join him next season if he keeps steering Reading in the right direction with his Barcelona-inspired footballing approach.