Ruud van Nistelrooy was a deadly accurate Dutch striker who played for some of the biggest clubs in the world including Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Van Nistelrooy’s early years
Van Nistelrooy started his career as a central midfielder when he was at Dutch part time team, Nooit Gedacht and Margriet.
He moved up to centre forward when he joined Dutch second division club, Den Bosch when he was 17. He stayed at Den Bosch for four years and scored 17 goals in 69 games.
He then joined Heerenveen where he scored 13 goals in 31 games in the 1997-98 season.
That was enough to attract attention from the giants of the Dutch league and he signed for PSV Eindhoven in 1998 for €6.3m, a Dutch record at the time.
He had a fantastic strike rate for PSV, scoring 31 goals in 34 games on the way to winning the league in his first season with the club. He was the top scorer in the Dutch league and was voted Dutch Player of the Year.
In his second year at PSV, van Nistelrooy scored 29 goals as they won the title for a second year running. Around this time, Sir Alex Fergusson’s son Darren was having a trial at Heerenveen. While he was in Holland he saw a lot of van Nistelrooy and urged his dad to sign the striker.
In 2000, van Nistelrooy was due to sign for United, but the deal collapsed when he suffered a long term injury to his cruciate knee ligaments.
A year later, after van Nistelrooy had recovered, he signed for United for £19m as a replacement for Andy Cole. He exploded into the Premier League, scoring 23 goals in 32 games in his first season. He scored in eight consecutive games which was a record at the time. United didn’t win the league, but van Nistelrooy was named PFA Player of the Year.
The following season, United won the title and van Nistelrooy was the top scorer with 25 goals in 34 games. He scored in a record ten consecutive games over the end of the 2002-3 and the beginning of the 2003-4 seasons. United failed to win the title in 2004, but they won the FA Cup thanks to two goals from van Nistelrooy in the 3-0 victory over Millwall in the final.
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