Jaap Stam, the Manchester United treble winner who takes his new Reading side to Old Trafford in the FA Cup Third Round tomorrow, has agreed that he aspires to manage a club of their pedigree.
Stam has never returned in a competitive capacity to the stadium which he abruptly left when Sir Alex Ferguson sold him to Lazio in 2001 and he made it clear that eventually managing the club would be appealing, though he said he is in no rush and it is not an aspiration for "next season".
Asked about the idea of eventually managing United, he joked: "That's a tricky question from the press and the papers isn't it?"
But the 44-year-old continued: "Everybody wants to work at the highest level. I've been there myself and I know what is needed to get there.
"I need to start at the bottom. I've done that in Holland (as assistant at Ajax and the Ajax reserve team). You need to wait for that chance as a lot of great managers don't have the chance in the top level of football. I'm not looking at that or thinking that in the next couple of years I need to be there."
Despite having no experience in English football management before taking over at Reading this season, Stam has a genuine chance of reaching the top flight with his side, who have taken well to his possession based brand of football and are third, six points behind Newcastle United with a game in hand.
He admitted that other clubs have "10 or 15 times" as much money to spend in the January transfer window as his own.
But he did not dismiss the suggestion that Reading would sign Liverpool defender Thiago Ilori for £3.75m.
"We are always looking for players with experience," Stam said when asked about the Portuguese player. "We are looking for players who don't cost that much."
Stam expressed admiration for Jose Mourinho's contribution at Old Trafford, stating that he believes United can win the Premier League title. "I think they can," he said.
He characterised himself as an inexperienced manager with a huge amount to learn from the likes of Mourinho.
"He is up - I'm here," the Dutchman said, gesturing low.
"There's no comparisons between the two of us. I need to learn a lot. I look to talk to certain managers. I speak a lot to several managers about how they work. You are sometimes surprised about how they are working."
But despite his deference, Stam insisted that Reading will not abandon their possession based approach to the game when they face United tomorrow lunchtime.
"We are not going to change anything. We still want our possession and to play," he said.
"We need to think a bit differently in certain ways but most things are not different."
His side are regularly commanding 70 per cent of the ball in Championship games.
Stam does not intend to try to make up for the fact he left too abruptly to say "goodbye" in 2001.
"I'm not going to make a big thing of it because I'm not going to be waving (to the fans)," Stam said. "Hopefully I'm going to be coming back again in the near future (with Reading)."
He said he had not asked other managers about beating United.
"No. There's a lot of managers who don't beat United," he said.
Stam was asked if he could sign one player from the '99 treble team, who it would be. "I don't want my players to think they're not good enough," he replied.