It was one of those rare Sir Alex Ferguson calls that the great Manchester United legend admitted he may have got wrong.
“When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there.”
The Dutch defender joined the Red Devils back in 1998, agreeing a then club-record fee with PSV to get their man. He went on to enjoy great success in the short time that he was at Old Trafford, winning a hat-trick of Premier League titles in consecutive years, and of course being part of that famous Treble-winning side in 1999.
But in 2001, the centre-back left the club in rather acrimonious circumstances, with the fall-out from his book causing ramifications for his place in the team and the trust that he had with Ferguson.
However, whilst the former United boss himself he made a “bad decision”, is that really the case?
Yes, the club may have lost an elite central defender who was part of a team that had dominated English and European football for a three-year period, but what transpired the summer after that arguably off-set any feelings of regret.
The Red Devils signed Rio Ferdinand for a British record £30m in July 2002, which made him the world’s most expensive defender for the second time in his short career (his £18.5m switch from West Ham to Leeds in November 2000 was the first).
The then 23-year-old went on to establish himself as the cornerstone of United’s defence and back-line for the best part of a decade, winning multiple Premier League titles, domestic trophies and getting his hand on the coveted Champions League crown too.
Had Stam stayed put, would Ferguson have considered splashing out big-money to sign yet another dominant central defender? Indeed, even if they had, Ferdinand may have struggled to impose himself as he did by himself, and may have been under the shadow of the more high-profile Dutchman.
In the end, Sir Alex’s “bad decision” worked out for the best at United. With 455 games under his belt, and multiple trophies in his cabinet too, Ferdinand became a United legend, and surely more than erased any bad memories of Stam’s exit in 2001.