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Alex Ferguson speaks about the Man United strikers who had ‘zero chemistry’

“When you put the two of them out there together there was zero chemistry.”

Diego Forlan and Ruud van Nistelrooy played together over 50 times for Manchester United, but Alex Ferguson said that the strikers had “zero chemistry” on the pitch during their time at the club.

The former Man United manager said that this was mostly due to Van Nistelrooy’s single-mindedness. But Ferguson also cites Forlan’s preference to play with a strike partner as another reason why the pair didn’t click on the pitch.

Man United strikers

Ruud van Nistelrooy and Diego Forlan at Man United.

Van Nistelrooy established himself as one of the world’s best strikers during his time at Old Trafford. The Dutch striker netted 150 goals in 219 games for the Red Devils, and only Wayne Rooney has scored more goals for Man United in European football.

Between 2001 and 2006, Van Nistelrooy was Man United’s main centre-forward and he wasn’t keen on working with a strike partner, according to Ferguson.

As a result, Forlan, who joined Man United from the Argentine side Independiente in 2002, failed to gel with his teammate.

The Uruguayan striker only scored 17 goals in 98 games for the Red Devils between 2002 and 2004, before becoming one of Europe’s best strikers at Villareal and Atletico Madrid.

Man United strikers

Alex Ferguson on the Man United  strikers who had “zero chemistry.”

Forlan preferred to play with a partner, yet Van Nistelrooy was a soloist. As a result, the pair failed to spark on the pitch and replicate the brilliant partnership Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke enjoyed for Man United.

In his second autobiography, Alex Ferguson writes that Forlan was a “grand player” who “ran up against the problem of Ruud’s singularity.

“Ruud wanted to be the No. 1 finisher. That was his nature,” Ferguson writes. “Diego Forlan didn’t register on his radar at all, so when you put the two of them out there together there was zero chemistry.”

Forlan after Man United.

Forlan and Van Nistelrooy shared the pitch 56 times together for Man United but only combined for five goals during those matches.

Ferguson claims that Forlan was “better with a partner” and he was correct. The Uruguayan developed a productive partnership with Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid, where the pair combined for 39 goals in 158 games together for the La Liga side.

But, back at Old Trafford between 2002 and 2004, Forlan and Van Nistelrooy failed to click and Ferguson reluctantly allowed Forlan to join Villareal in the summer of ’04.

“He was a good player and a terrific pro…”

“He scored some priceless goals,” the former Man United manager writes.

“Two at Anfield, a goal with the last kick of the game against Chelsea. He was a good player and a terrific pro… A breath of fresh air, as a person. We let him go for £2 million, which I thought was too cheap. With his wages, no club was willing to bid any higher. The next thing we knew he was moving on for £15 million.”

Van Nistelrooy left Man United two years later after falling out with Ferguson, who then rebuilt his final great team around the partnership of Wane Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.


(Originally published on May 26, 2021).

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