Ruud Van Nistelrooy: The best striker of my time.



Ruud van Nistelrooy starred at Manchester United
Image taken from: The Daily Express


Ruud Van Nistelrooy born in Oss, began his professional career with Dutch side, Den Bosch. After starting his football career as a Central Midfielder during his time in youth football, it was Den Bosch who quickly realised that Van Nistelrooy had all the qualities needed to play as a striker.

During the 1996/97 season, in his fourth season as a striker at Den Bosch, who at the time played in the Dutch Second Division, Van Nistelrooy netted an impressive 12 times in 31 games. On the back of this impressive season, the Dutch Striker was signed by Eredivisie side Heerenveen. It was in this one and only season that he had with Heerenveen where Van Nistelrooy was starting to show signs that he was going to be a top-class striker. That season the Dutch Hitman scored 13 goals in 31 games and this prompted PSV Eindhoven to pay, a then-record fee between two Dutch teams of €6.3million to secure his services.

The move to PSV would now give Van Nistelrooy the opportunity to showcase his striking talents on the European stage. He duly delivered, Nistelrooy ended the 1997/98 season the second-highest scorer in the whole of Europe with a tally of 31 goals in 34 games for the Eindhoven club. Alongside this season, Van Nistelrooy enjoyed 3 hugely successful seasons with PSV Eindhoven, where in total he won two Eredivisie titles, a Dutch Player of the Year Award and in his first two seasons at PSV he finished as the league's top goalscorer.

In 2001 it was time was time for Ruud Van Nistelrooy to start his career with United, a career that was to see him become one of the best strikers to ever play for Manchester United. His move to United should have happened in 2000, but a medical at the club flagged up an existing issue with Van Nistelrooy’s knee, which needed to be operated on before he finally moved to the club for a deal worth £19 million. The interesting thing about the Van Nistelrooy move to Manchester United is, fans may need to be thankful to another member of the Ferguson family rather than Sir Alex. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2001 the then Manchester United boss revealed that his son, Darren Ferguson who was trial at Van Nistelrooy’s former club, Heerenveen had come up against the Dutch striker when playing PSV. Darren was impressed with Nistelrooy’s quality and told his dad that it was essential that he signed him for United. On this Ferguson said:

“I was told about Ruud and urged to sign him right away by my son, who was having a trial in the Netherlands with Heerenveen”
                                                              The Daily Telegraph 

Coming off the back of winning three titles in a row, United spent big in the summer of 2001. Besides spending the £19 million on Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron also joined the club in a £24 million transfer. These signings meant United looked strong favourites to win an unprecedented 4 Premier League titles in a row. Star signing Veron struggled, but Van Nistelrooy flourished and ended his first season in England with a prolific total of 23 goals in 32 league games, breaking a Premier League record by scoring in 8 consecutive league games and most importantly, making himself an instant hit with the United fans. However this was not enough to win the club any silverware during the 2000/01 season. United missed out on the title, finishing third, 10 points behind champions Arsenal.

By the end of the 2002/03 season, Van Nistelrooy had shown to everyone in England and the rest of Europe what he is all about. A season where United had regained their title from fierce rivals Arsenal, Van Nistelrooy was at the forefront of everything good United did that season. His predatory striking instincts and uncanny knack to be in the right place at the right time didn’t only ensure he scored plenty of goals for the club, but also that he became the perfect replacement for Andy Cole, who had left the previous year and alongside Cole he remains one of the best strikers at the club since the great Dennis Law. Van Nistelrooy ended the 2002/03 season with 25 goals, which was enough to see the Dutchman win the Premier League Golden Boot and be named Premier League Player of the Year. That season he added 12 more European goals to his growing total from his appearances playing in the UEFA Champions League.

Whilst Van Nistelrooy was not to win another Premier League during his time in England, the 2003/04 season proved to be yet another that yielded plenty more trademark goals from the United number 10. None more important though than his penalty in the 2004 FA Cup final win against Millwall. That was to be Van Nistelrooy’s first and only FA Cup winners medal.

Nistelrooy’s fourth season at United was to be blighted with injuries. However, there was to be a personal highlight for him during that season, after scoring 8 goals in the Champions League he was to pass Dennis Law to become Manchester United’s all-time top goalscorer in Europe, something that even Law was happy about himself.

The 2005/06 season was to be Dutch striker's last at Old Trafford. Once again he amassed another respectable goal tally with 21 goals. The season was to have another domestic cup success, but for the final Nistelrooy was benched as United beat Wigan 4-0 in the 2006 League Cup Final. This decision from the boss, Sir Alex Ferguson sparked stories that the manager and Nistelrooy had fallen out and there had also been a training ground disagreement between Van Nistelrooy and Portuguese teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The summer of 2006 saw Van Nistelrooy leave United to join Real Madrid. He left the reds having scored a memorable 150 goals in 219 appearances, making him United’s 11th highest goal scorer of all time, having only spent five seasons at the club. Nistelrooy is United’s second-highest goalscorer in Europe, with 38 goals, only behind Wayne Rooney. These impressive numbers make Ruud Van Nistelrooy one of the best strikers the club has ever had.

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