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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Good money for Stam
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson has shown his ruthlessness
BBC Sport Online's football editor, Howard Nurse, claims Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to sell Jaap Stam was good business.

Was it really such a big surprise that Manchester United sold Jaap Stam to Lazio?

Look at his flat-footed form at the start of the season.

He was truly awful against Celtic in Ryan Giggs' testimonial, poor against Michael Owen in the Charity Shield and just as shaky in the Premiership opener against Fulham.

Stam was swiftly dropped by Ferguson and told he had slipped down the pecking order.

But the writing was already on the wall for the Dutchman following the serialisation of his book in a tabloid newspaper.

Stam was totally naive to think he could get away with criticising Ferguson and some of his team-mates.

Jaap Stam
Jaap Stam impressed for Holland against England

Accusing Ferguson of "tapping him up" while still at PSV Eindhoven and being critical of the Neville brothers was foolish to say the least.

Ferguson rates loyalty as one of life's most important traits.

Turning traitor was the final nail in the coffin for Stam.

The most surprising thing about Stam's transfer to Lazio was the timing.

Stam, who cost United 10.75m in 1998, only signed an extension to his contract earlier this year.

As far as Stam was concerned, he was set to stay at United until 2006.

But nothing stays the same for long in the crazy cut-throat world of football.

Ferguson decided to accept Lazio's third bid for Stam, enabling the United boss to use some of the 16.5m fee to strengthen his defence.

Laurent Blanc is expected to sign from Inter Milan for around 1m before Friday's Champions League deadline.

And don't be surprised if another newcomer also arrives at Old Trafford by the end of the week.

Blanc's role will be ephemeral but Ferguson will also bring in somebody for the long-term, possibly Real Madrid's Ivan Campo, Kevin Hofland from PSV or Fabio Cannavaro from Parma.

He is a man now, and plays like a man. He is an excellent player
Sir Alex Ferguson on Wes Brown

Nobody would dispute that United are vulnerable at the back.

That's why Ferguson tried unsuccessfully to recruit the likes of Lillian Thurman and Bixente Lizarazu during the close season.

Ferguson has already hailed Wes Brown as the best defender in the country.

He believes Brown will steadily grow in stature and become a long-term fixture in the heart of both United's and England's defence.

"He is a man now, and plays like a man. He is an excellent player," said Ferguson of the defender who recovered from a serious injury to finish last season strongly.

After parting with almost 50m to secure the services of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron, Ferguson knew he had to ship somebody out to raise funds to recruit two new defenders.

Stam has been made to look like the scapegoat and selling a player of his calibre when you have defensive frailties is a bold move.

Ferguson is ruthless and did not think Stam was up to the job.

The problem now for Ferguson is getting the new recruits in place quickly and effectively - otherwise things could go pear-shaped at Old Trafford.

See also:

02 Aug 01 |  Man Utd
Man Utd's defensive worries
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