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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Ruud's Real deal
By Saj Chowdhury

Ruud van Nistelrooy was destined to become Manchester United's all-time greatest goalscorer.

Ruud van Nistelrooy
Van Nistelrooy's time at Old Trafford ended on a sour note

Between April 2001 and May 2005 he had scored 150 goals in 219 games for the Old Trafford club and Sir Bobby Charlton's record of 247 goals was certainly within reach of the 30-year-old.

But cracks in the marriage between the Dutchman and manager Sir Alex Ferguson began to show with Van Nistelrooy relegated to the substitutes bench for much of the second half of last season.

What actually happened between the pair is not known, but what is fact is that the darling of United is now another 'Galatico' in Real Madrid's collection.

We look at what the future holds for all three parties.

WHAT IT MEANS TO MAN UTD

"There have been a couple of issues during the week that concerned us in terms of the spirit of the club," said Sir Alex Ferguson after he left out Ruud van Nistelrooy for the final game of the season against Charlton.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Ruud van Nistelrooy
The relationship between Ferguson and Van Nistelrooy deteriorated
The striker did not stick around to give his version of events having left Old Trafford three hours before kick-off.

It was the final straw for the Dutchman who was subsequently told he could not play in former team-mate Roy Keane's testimonial. That came after a hurtful omission from the starting line-up in the Carling Cup final earlier in February.

Many believe the catalyst for the rift between Ferguson and Van Nistelrooy was a reported training ground bust-up between the player and team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van Nistelrooy said "nothing happened" but Ronaldo admitted there was a disagreement.

But whatever was the cause, it might have been enough for Ferguson to ultimately hand the striker, he called "the best in Europe", his P45.

Manchester United, who in Van Nistelrooy had found their first 20 goals-a-season striker since Brian McClair scored 24 League goals during the 1987/88 campaign, will now be dependent on Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha and fit-again Ole Gunnar Solskjaer filling the void.

Saha was the player who took the Dutchman's place in the starting XI for the Carling Cup final against Wigan. He scored 15 in total last season and with Rooney, who found the net 19 times, struck up a good partnership.

However, neither of those two strikers play the 'fox in the box' role that Van Nistelrooy did to such perfection.

With Chelsea bolstering their frontline with the arrival of 30m Andriy Shevchenko, the pressure is on United to find a replacement.

And with the United midfield chipping in with fewer goals than they did during the late 1990s, Ferguson's decision to offload the Dutch hitman may prove to be the biggest gamble of his career.

WHAT IT MEANS TO REAL MADRID

Real Madrid were the original Chelsea. When Florentino Perez became president of the club in 2000 he set an agenda of 'buy the best, at whatever cost'.

And buy the best he did.

Ruud van Nistelrooy
Beckham and Van Nistelrooy will be reunited at Real

Luis Figo (world record 38.7), Zinedine Zidane (world record 46.5m), David Beckham (25m), Ronaldo (25m), Michael Owen and Robinho are just some of the big-name players who have been brought to the club at no small price.

However, only two league titles and one European Cup have been won during that time, which for those involved with the club and their fanatical support is not good enough.

To make matters worse, they have been usurped by Barcelona as top dogs of Spain, with the Catalan giants having claimed both La Liga and the Champions League last season.

The signing of Van Nistelrooy at first glance seems a little odd considering the club still have Brazilian strikers Ronaldo, Robinho and Spain's Raul, playing for them.

But the trio with the big-bill reputations failed to deliver on the big occasions as Real finished 12 points behind Barcelona in La Liga.

Ronaldo was the closest thing Real had to a Van Nistelrooy, but injuries and fitness issues have meant that the 29-year-old is a shadow of the player he once was.

Real will benefit from having a striker who has had few fitness problems since his cruciate knee ligament damage in 2000 and also one who will be re-united with former Old Trafford team-mate and assist-machine David Beckham.

If both players begin working in tandem again, then new club president Ramon Calderon will be justified in having splashed out on another Galactico.

WHAT IT MEANS TO VAN NISTELROOY

A fresh start could be what the doctor ordered for the Dutchman, having gone from a player who warmed the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful to one who warmed the bench at the click of Ferguson's fingers.

Real, like Manchester United, are a team in transition, but their midfield, is arguably, a stronger one with Julio Baptista, Emerson and Beckham all there to provide the ammunition for the Dutch hitman.

Van Nistelrooy's pace will worry La Liga defenders and the target of beating Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o to the title of top scorer will be an added incentive.

Another aim for the 30-year-old, although he is unlikely to admit this, is to prove to the 66% of Real fans who did not want him (poll in a Spanish newspaper) that he is worth every euro Calderon spent.

If Van Nistelrooy stays clear of injury and the midfield provide adequate service there is no reason why he can not replicate what he achieved at Old Trafford.



SEE ALSO
Ferguson's Ruud dilemma
28 Jul 06 |  Man Utd
Van Nistelrooy seals Madrid move
28 Jul 06 |  Man Utd
Ruud's Man Utd career in photos
14 Jul 06 |  Photo Galleries


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