Stam on our winning mentality, always wanting more, Jose Mourinho, the United fans and a cup tie to savour...In little more than 24 hours, Jaap Stam will be stood in the opposite technical area to Jose Mourinho in his return to Old Trafford, trying to guide his Royals side to an FA Cup result against the mighty Manchester United.
The former treble-winner with United spoke openly and at length to the media yesterday…
On the mouth-watering prospect of Saturday’s cup tie…
“Everyone always looks forward to games like these. We want to show ourselves at Old Trafford against a side like Manchester United. We know they are in form and it doesn’t matter which players they play – they have so much quality. So we know it’s going to be difficult.
“But we’ve got confidence as well. We believe in ourselves. We believe we can do something. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re up against a team like United.
“It’s always nice for a manager and his team to play against teams like Manchester United to see what you can do, what you are capable of. And then you can see where you can improve as a player and how the team can be better going into the second half of the season.”
Will it be the proudest moment of managerial career to date on Saturday?
“It would if we get a result! I was the type of player who wanted to win every game…and I’m the same as a manager.
“Hopefully I’m at the start of my managerial career. But eventually I want success as a manager, because I want to win every game. That’s not for myself, but also for the team I’m managing. I played at the highest level and I want to get there as a manager as well.
“You always need to have something in your mentality to try to win every game you’re playing. You always need to have hunger for more. It doesn’t matter if it’s a competitive game in the league or the cup, or a five-a-side in training. You need a certain mentality to always want more. And that mentality will bring you to a certain level. That’s what we’re trying to get into this group - and so far it’s going well.”
On the selection process ahead of this game…
“We play QPR on the Thursday night next, so we have quite a few days to prepare the team for that one – so that won’t affect how I pick the team for this tie. We’ll put a strong team out there and I think they will to.
“This is a special game and everybody wants to play. But players are realistic as well, they know if they’ve done enough or if they are in good form.
“And the unity we have within the club here, we are willing to work together for each other – so the players are happy to see others doing well too.”
On whether we are going to change our tactics?
“Maybe we can do things a bit differently. But one of our strengths is the belief we have in ourselves and the possession football we play.
“We will have the same approach as we have for a league game - we’re not going to do anything different in our preparation.
“And we believe in what we do and it’s been working for us this season. It won’t be easy against players of the quality they have. But we’re going to give it a shot and we’ll see at the end of the game how well it has gone.”
You won the FA Cup in your first season at United, one part of the treble. Is that the greatest team you’ve played in?
“We had a great team with a lot of quality, but one of the most important things we had in the team was a determination combined with that certain quality.
“We always kept each other on our toes, we always wanted to win – that’s what you need in your team to win trophies. That was the best quality that team had.”
On Jose Mourinho…
“He’s the type of manager who wants to win the league, the Champions League, the FA Cup, everything! That’s what I like about him.
“He’s up there, I’m down here. I still need to learn a lot, I need to improve myself as a manager. I can learn a lot from him in how he works. He’s a great manager.”
On the Manchester United fans still singing his song…
“Hopefully they support me on Saturday – I’ve heard they still sing my song! It tells you something in how I performed when I was there and the relationship I had with the fans.
“I’ve never been back in a proper game – I’ve been back for the games we played for Soccer Aid – but it’ll be good to be back in front of the United fans in a situation like this.
“But it’s not an opportunity to say a proper goodbye to them, because hopefully I’ll be back again as a manager coming up against them in the future.”
Would you take a draw?
“I always want to win, and I always go for a win. So I’m not going to make any decisions on that question. All I can say is I don’t like losing!”
Do you think United and Mourinho are wary of an upset?
“He wants to win this game, so he’s not going to be taking too many risks. But he does have a lot of choices in the players he has in his squad.
“And I’m sure he knows what we can do as a team and how we can perform. That’s how a manager prepares his team. He won’t be thinking that if he puts 11 players on the pitch, it’ll be that easy. That’s not the type of manager he is. He’s a winner.”
Do you see the FA Cup as the greatest cup competition in the world?
“Yes I do. I’ve played in Holland in the cup, I’ve played in Italy in the cup – where it is never important unless you make it to the final. In England, the FA Cup has always been a great tournament.
“Everybody wants to do well in this competition and it also pits the smaller teams against the big teams, something that is great about this cup and something that needs to keep going.
“As a player and a manager, it’s a great competition to be part of.”