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All Things Footie | Monday, August 27 | Jordan

The Title's Over?

Who says so? It's a bit of long shot, Everton may be top for a couple of weeks (so long as Liverpool beat Bolton) but it's going a bit far.

Now your proper challengers - Arsenal, Leeds, Chelsea and rank outsiders Man Utd - should go toward making this an interesting season.

As I said a few weeks ago I don't think United have got the strong, versatile and talented defense a club with title aspirations requires. Selling Jaap Stam to Lazio is the final nail in the coffin, United now have no defence - Irwin, Silvestre, the Neville brothers, Ronny Johnsen and Wes Brown - not good enough. Wes Brown is by far the best, Ronny Johnsen and especially Dennis Irwin are ageing fast and the less said about Silvestre and the brothers Grimm the better.

I'd like to think Ferguson has a replacement lined up (and I'm not talking about 35 year old Laurent Blanc) but from the sounds of it it was a heat of the moment thing, Stam's comments make intersting reading...

"I can think of no good sporting reason why I should be sold. For three years I have been [United's best defender] in the first team and we have won every trophy we could.

"I wanted to sit down with Sir Alex to have a real chat about some of the things that had appeared in my book and caused so much trouble.

"I wanted to clear the air but when we sat down for the talks, they took a very different turn. Ferguson started to go on about wanting a different player for my position. He asked me if I would be happy to stay on the bench all season.

"I was shocked. I could not believe what he was saying. He must have known what my answer would be. I said: "No way". He then said there was a club in for me and that United had already accepted the fee. The situation was crystal clear. I was being forced out. If that was what Sir Alex wanted then I had no desire to stay at the club.

"If I hadn't been forced out, though, there is no way I would have signed for Lazio. I had signed a new contract with Manchester United last winter. I was going to be at the club until 2005. I wanted to end my career with United and I thought I would be there for life."

My guesses for the replacement? Kevin Hofland of PSV or Phillipe Mexes of Auxerre both classy centre halves with superb distribution - very much in the Frank De Boer/Laurent Blanc mould. Which makes me wonder whether the Blanc talk is a cheeky smokescreen hiding the approach of 'the new Laurent Blanc'.

The Villa vs. United game yesterday was a blinder - Schmeichel was superb, but seemed the only player on the pitch to actually think Villa could have taken the three points.

Later on today the now indispensible All Things Footie weekly awards will be up - so check back at teatime!

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