Ruud van Nistelrooy was one of the most feared strikers in world football
Van Nistelrooy was part of the Netherlands squad for Euro 2004 in Portugal. He scored in all three group games as the Netherlands drew 1-1 with Germany, lost 3-2 against the Czech Republic and won 3-2 against Latvia to finish second in the group.
They then faced Sweden in the second round. The game finished 0-0 after extra time and van Nistelrooy took and scored the Netherland’s first penalty as they won the shootout. However their tournament ended in the semi final as they were beaten 2-1 by hosts Portugal.
Falling out with United team mates
Things turned a bit sour for van Nistelrooy towards the end of his time at United. He lost his place in the team to Louis Saha and did not play in the 2006 League Cup final.
United won 4-0, to win their first trophy for two years, but van Nistelrooy refused to go on to the pitch to celebrate with his teammates.
After he fell out with rising star, Christiano Ronaldo, Ferguson decided it was time for the Dutch star to go.
Van Nistelrooy leaves United
He left in 2006 having won one league title in five years. Remarkably, due to Arsenal’s invincibles and the emergence of Chelsea under billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, this was United’s least successful period in the history of the Premier League.
However, this says more about United’s extremely high standards than van Nistelrooy’s contribution. After all, he scored 150 goals in 220 games for the club and became their all time top European goal scorer with 38 goals.
Despite the way things ended at United, van Nistelrooy had no problem finding another top European club. He joined Real Madrid in 2006 for €24m.
He hit the ground running in the Spanish league just as he had done in England. Real won the La Liga title in his first season and he was the league’s top goal scorer with 25 goals. He also equalled Hugo Sánchez’s record of scoring in seven consecutive La Liga games.
The following season, Real retained their title and van Nistelrooy scored 20 goals in 33 games. For the next couple of years, van Nistelrooy was plagued by injuries and he left the club in the 2010 January transfer window after scoring 46 goals in 68 games.
Hamburger SV and Málaga CF
Van Nistelrooy joined German club Hamburger SV spent a season and a half and scored 12 goals in 36 games. He then headed back to Spain, joining Málaga CF on a free transfer. He ended his playing days after announcing his retirement at the end of the 2011/2 season.