I sat down this evening intending to wax lyrical about the unbelievable conclusion to this year’s English Premier League. As I sat down I opened up the Sky Sports website to read up on the latest news and was struck by an article which has changed my mood and the direction of this piece.
Rather than focusing on the fact that some team in blue scored a late goal to win some tournament which the mighty Manchester United had in their grasp (you will have to excuse me but it may take some time before I am able to write about City’s title win objectively) I have decided to write about my memories of a great player, and one of my all-time favourites, who has today announced his retirement.
Sadly for us, Ruud’s success caught the eye of Real Madrid; the footballing equivalent of that annoyingly attractive kid at school who nicked everyone’s girlfriends
Dutch striker and all round goal machine Ruud Van Nistelrooy has officially hung up his boots and called it a day aged thirty five. Reading this news immediately gave me a feeling of nostalgia for the years when I frequented Old Trafford at almost every home game. There were only two things you could guarantee in those days – Diego Forlan wouldn’t score and Ruud Van Nistelrooy would most definitely hit the back of the net.
In one hundred and fifty games for Manchester United Ruud managed an amazing ninety five goals. He was a true terrace hero at United and, it would seem, most other places that he played his football. And what wasn’t there to like? A humble bloke who popped up in the box every now and then and put the ball in the net. He may not have been the most exciting player to watch, he rarely took on players with mind boggling trickery or amazing bursts of speed and he NEVER scored from outside the box, but my word was he reliable.
A real sign of the man’s character was the fact that he originally thought the United fans were booing him as chants of ‘RUUUUUUD’ bellowed out across the ground during his debut season. He was worried that he wasn’t performing to a high enough level. In an age of footballers exhibiting narcissistic traits week in week out and the likes of Mr Balotelli, or in United’s case Nani, craving the adulation of the fans for doing very little Ruud is a shining example. If he wasn’t scoring goals then he was working hard to get in the box and find a goal.
Sure there weren’t always good times, the long running feud with Martin Keown which ended in Ruud smashing a penalty against the bar against Arsenal at Old Trafford was an example of the lows but you could always guarantee some atonement for this in the form of more and more goals.
Maybe I am a little more saddened than others by this news because I grew up with Ruud as one of my favourite United players. I remember buying United’s reversible away strip (I’m sure we won’t be seeing one of those again if the Glazers have anything to do with it, two kits for the price of one, not on their watch!) and getting “Van Nistelrooy 10” on the back even though it ruined the other side which then read an imprint of “01 yoorletsiN naV”. I didn’t care, he was the main man at Old Trafford and we loved him.
As is often the case, and sadly for us Reds, Ruud’s success caught the eye of Real Madrid; the footballing equivalent of that annoyingly attractive kid at school who nicked everyone’s girlfriends. Van Nistelrooy, Beckham and Ronaldo have all been snatched from our loving clutches by the big bad Spaniards. His goals record speaks for itself in Spain with forty six in sixty eight games. Sadly injury cut short Van Nistelrooy’s time at Madrid and he moved on to pastures new at Hamburg before finishing his playing days at Malaga.
It was a disappointing end to the career of one of football’s greatest ever finishers and a classic, old fashioned number ten. Hopefully he will always be remembered for his time at PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Real Madrid. So to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a big thank you for all the goals and the memories. Now if United could only find a new you we might be able to get our trophy back from those blokes over at Eastlands…