Today’s Premier League hero is former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Dutch striker was one of the most gifted and prolific goal scorers in Premier League history.
The Dutch striker managed to score 95 times in the Premier League in only five seasons at Manchester United while he is also currently the 4th highest goal scorer in the Champions League with an impressive 56 goals in 73 appearances.
Manchester United snapped up the the talented striker in 2001 and he immediately became a fan’s favourite as in his five seasons at the club as he helped them to a Premier League title, the FA Cup, League Cup and the Charity Shield.
The striker also earned a few notable individual awards as he was Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year twice, won PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2002, Premier League Player of the Season in 2003 and was named the Best Striker in Europe in 2003.
The Dutch striker also managed to become United’s all- time top goal scorer in Europe during his time at Old Trafford and he managed to score 150 goals in only 219 games for the Red Devils. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was an outstanding player with an outstanding goal scoring record and he once showed his winning mentality by stating,
“Losing is not in my vocabulary.”
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was born in Oss, North Brabant in the Netherlands on the 1st of July 1976. The 6ft. 2in. striker began his career in 1993 at Dutch side Den Bosch as a youth player and managed to score 17 times in 69 appearances as he was still only beginning to learn his trade as a striker.
In 1997, the striker moved on to Heerenveen and only stayed at the club for a season before moving on to PSV Eindhoven. During his time at PSV, Van Nistelrooy had an unbelievable goal scoring record as he netted 62 times in only 67 appearances, which led to growing attention surrounding the player from big European sides.
United originally tried to sign Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the summer transfer window of 2000 but the player suffered a lengthy injury, which led to the transfer being called off as he would have been out for the majority of the season.
United returned for the striker in 2001 and they successfully signed the striker for £19 million on a five year contract before the new season came around. Many questioned the huge fee that was paid for the striker but Van Nistelrooy rubbished claims that the huge fee would put too much pressure on him as he claimed,
“The price is not heavy for me, it lifts me up because it means United have big confidence in me.”
The Dutch striker backed up this statement and proved his doubters wrong by scoring twice on his debut in a 3-2 win over Fulham on the 19th of August 2001. It also didn’t take long for him to score his first Premier League hat-trick as he netted three during a 6-1 win over Southampton on the 22nd of August 2001.
Van Nistelrooy seemed to go from strength to strength as he broke a Premier League record by scoring in eight consecutive league games and then finished the season with 23 league goals, which resulted in him being named as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy continued his brilliant scoring form into the 2002/03 season by becoming the Premier League’s top goal scorer for that season as he managed to net 25 times in 34 games. The striker managed to score three hat-tricks in the 2002/03 season in games against Newcastle United, Fulham and Charlton Athletic.
The United hero then went on to score in each of the eight final games of the season, including a goal in the final game of the season against Everton, which helped him steal the golden boot from Thierry Henry. This resulted in him being named as the Premier League Player of the Season, and 12 goals in the Champions League helped him win the title of the Best Striker in Europe.
Although, his biggest achievement came when he helped Manchester United lift the 2002/03 Premier League title, Van Nistelrooy scored in the first two league games in the 2003/04 season, which meant he had scored in ten consecutive league games.
Controversy arose for the striker when he missed a final minute penalty for United in a 0-0 game against Arsenal, which resulted in a brawl between several players from both sides at the final whistle.
Van Nistelrooy was mocked by Arsenal defender Martin Keown who was then given a fine and a ban by the FA for his lack of sportsmanship. Van Nistelrooy also managed to reach a landmark in his United career as he netted his 100th for United in a 4-3 win over Everton in February 2004. The Dutchman then ended his season on a high as he scored twice in the FA Cup final to help United defeat Millwall.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy missed a chunk of the 2004/05 season due to injury, which resulted in him only scoring six league goals as he only managed to play in 17 games. The highlight of his season was when he helped United end Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run as goals from Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney led to a 2-0 win for the red Devils in October 2004.
The striker was then handed a three game ban for a tackle on Ashley Cole in the same game as the incident wasn’t seen by the referee but later reviewed by the FA. The Dutchman was targeting another FA Cup win as he put two goals past Newcastle United in the semi-final to help United reach another final but they ended up losing the final on penalties to Arsenal.
Van Nistelrooy was adamant on having a good season in 2005/06 due to the disappointment of the previous campaign and he began the season by netting in his first four games. Although, speculation began to grow about tension between Van Nistelrooy and United boss Alex Ferguson, which saw the Dutchman being benched for the League Cup final against Wigan and six consecutive league games.
Van Nistelrooy returned to the United starting line-up eventually and sent out a clear message by scoring winners against West Ham United and Bolton. Unfortunately, his winning goal against Bolton on April 1st 2006 was to be his last goal for Manchester United as he was dropped again at the end of the season due to a disagreement with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and boss Alex Ferguson.
Rumours surrounded Van Nistelrooy at the end of the season as many began to predict that he would leave United and eventually these rumours turned out to be true as United let him move on to Real Madrid for €14 million, which was a huge disappointment for United fans everywhere.
Ruud van Nistelrooy will go down in history as one of Manchester United’s most prolific goal scorers.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena