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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Ruud lays down Law
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Law and Van Nistelrooy - scorers supreme
Denis Law is the original King of Manchester United - but Ruud van Nistelrooy has now taken over his Old Trafford throne.

Van Nistelrooy's Champions League brace against Lyon on Wednesday took him to 30 European goals, two more than Law's long-standing record of 28.

The feats are both remarkable and a tribute to the goalscoring skills of two strikers who have already written their names into Old Trafford folklore.

After Van Nistelrooy had rescued a draw for United with his two-goal salvo against the French, Law was more than happy to see his record go.

"I'm delighted for Ruud. It could not happen to a nicer guy," said Law.

"He deserves this. And to do it in the way he did is fantastic."

Van Nistelrooy returned the compliment and said: "It makes me proud to score more goals in Europe than a great Manchester United player like Denis Law."

Van Nistelrooy's European goal record is all the more exceptional since his goals have come in the Champions League, whereas a portion of Scotland legend Law's came on what some might say was the less testing stage of the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, now known as the Uefa Cup.

He didn't just act as if it was his ball - he acted as if it was his stadium
Pat Crerand on Denis Law

Van Nistelrooy's header against Lyon was a finish which had a touch of Law about it, the towering leap and arched back as the keeper was beaten.

When the comparisons are set to one side, Old Trafford has been fortunate to witness two great strikers in their prime.

Aberdeen-born Law, now 64, arrived at Manchester United in 1962 for a British record 115,000 fee from Torino, via Huddersfield Town and Manchester City.

It was an investment the great Sir Matt Busby never regretted.

Indeed, such was Law's legendary status that Old Trafford even forgave him for scoring Manchester City's goal that sent United into the Second Division in 1974.

Law won an FA Cup winners' medal in 1963, scoring in the 3-1 win against Leicester City, and was crowned European Footballer of the Year in 1964.

30 goals: Ruud van Nistelrooy
28 goals: Denis Law
22 goals: Bobby Charlton
20 goals: Paul Scholes
19 goals: Andy Cole
19 goals: Ryan Giggs
19 goals: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
15 goals: David Beckham

As his former United team-mate Pat Crerand said: "He didn't just act as if it was his ball. He acted as if it was his stadium"

Law added championship medals in 1965 and 1967, but suffered the biggest disappointment of his career in 1968 when he missed United claiming the Holy Grail of the European Cup against Benfica because of a knee injury.

He scored 227 goals in 481 league matches in style that measured up to Van Nistelrooy - and is still Scotland's joint record goalscorer alongside Kenny Dalglish with 30 goals in 55 games.

Law was slight, but traded on razor-sharp reflexes, an uncanny ability to hang in the air, and had an edge of fiery flamboyance that made him a legendary figure at Old Trafford and beyond.

With his long-sleeved shirt gripped in his fist in a trademark style, Law terrorised defences both physically and in a football sense, and was blessed with lightning pace.

"The King" returns to Old Trafford

Van Nistelrooy is not as colourful a figure as Law but, like the Scot, comes to life in and around the penalty area and has a complete game, and despite his lack of match-fitness proved that his striker's instinct was still alive when he pounced for his second against Lyon.

He may be more of an old-fashioned centre-forward, but he possesses Law's predator's touch.

The 28-year-old arrived at Old Trafford for 19m from PSV Eindhoven in 2001, after starting his career at Den Bosch.

It was a triumph out of adversity, because only a year earlier he failed a medical at United, then suffered a serious knee injury immediately after his return to Holland.

But Sir Alex Ferguson was in constant touch and it was time well spent.

Van Nistelrooy is fast and light on his feet for a man well over six feet tall, powerful and has the natural gift for goals that Law possessed.

The facts tell the Dutchman's tale - 112 goals in 147 matches, with 68 league goals in only 99 games.

The comparisons can be regarded as unrepresentative of two truly unique strikers but one thing is certain - they would have made the perfect partnership.

Interview: Man Utd's Ruud van Nistelrooy

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