Stam predicts Yorke and Cole will have revenge on United

Lazio centre-back sees reuniting of former Old Trafford strike partnership at Blackburn as threat to Ferguson's title ambition

By Neil Andrews
Tuesday 28 January 2014 03:27
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Sir Alex Ferguson may have spent the last few days fielding the flak from Roy Keane's impending autobiography, but it could be the words of another former Manchester United rebel which return to haunt him when the destiny of the Premiership title race is decided next May.

For, while Ferguson scours Europe for a striker to complement Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his decision to sell Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke to Blackburn Rovers has caused Jaap Stam to question the wisdom of his former United manager.

During their pomp, the mere presence of Cole and Yorke's names on a team-sheet was enough to fill opposition dressing-rooms with dread. On the surface, they hardly seemed like a dream pairing because – in terms of personality at least – they occupied opposite ends of the spectrum, with Cole considered to be moody and aloof while Yorke was famous for his boyish smile.

But in three seasons together at Old Trafford, they built up an understanding which bordered on the telepathic. Now they appear to have slipped straight back into the old routine at Blackburn.

If further proof was needed that all the ingredients are in place, the evidence was there during Rovers' pre-season friendly campaign. After opening his account with two goals in the 10-0 demolition of FC Amberg in Germany, Yorke found the net again in Rovers' 4-2 win at Blackpool, which also featured a double from Cole.

But it was the way they linked up during the 3-2 win over Lazio last week which prompted Stam, now at Lazio, to suggest that Sir Alex may yet regret off-loading the pair.

"I could never have guessed that Andy and then Dwight would be sold," the Dutchman said. "When they were playing together and on top form they were sensational.

"It is rare to have two front players with no obvious weaknesses. They are fast, good in the air, deadly on the ground and they have a knack for taking the right positions at the right time. "They seem to know instinctively what the other is doing."

What could decide the success or otherwise of their partnership with Rovers is how quickly Yorke comes to terms with life after Old Trafford but in Cole he has an excellent role model. In seven seasons at Old Trafford, the former England man established himself as the No 1 striker at the world's biggest football club and won virtually every major honour the game had to offer. So a move anywhere else was always going to be perceived as a fall from grace, but the 30-year-old viewed it as a necessary step, and he responded with 13 goals in 20 appearances to help save Rovers from relegation.

"Obviously, Manchester United are the biggest club in England so this is entirely different but moving to Blackburn has not shocked me in any way," Cole said. "People have got to remember that before I went to United I was at Newcastle and Bristol City before that, so I knew what to expect.

"When you leave a place like Old Trafford you know you are never going to find another Manchester United but it was more important for me to go somewhere where I could play my football. I had some great experiences but you come to a stage in your life when you have to say to yourself 'what's more important? Staying at Manchester United or playing football?"

Now Yorke must show the same appetite and desire. When he first arrived at Old Trafford, Ferguson was gushing in his praise of the former Aston Villa striker, but, by the end of his United career, however, Ferguson had become so frustrated by the time Yorke spent with Trinidad and Tobago that he forced him into ending his international career.

It was Yorke's nocturnal habits which angered the United manager the most, though, leading him to the conclusion that winning the treble had blunted Yorke's hunger.

Those accusations left Yorke hurt and disappointed, but during the last 12 months he has had plenty of time to ponder what form his revenge will take after being discarded in United's reserves.

"You live and learn from those situations and it's all about character and how you respond to that," he said. "Blackburn have given me an opportunity to regain my confidence and self-esteem."

"I'm a very determined character, which is what got me to Manchester United in the first place, and I'm determined to make things work here."

Stam, for one, will be watching his progress with interest.

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