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The real reason behind Ruud Van Nistelrooy's departure from Manchester United

RVN:150 goals, 219 appearances, five magnificent seasons, but ended his illustrious career at United due to a series of fights at the club.

Van Nistelrooy was a fan favourite at Old Trafford

The Dutchman is one of the most successful strikers in European football and was an excellent marksman, but his last season was marred by fights with fellow players and the Sir Alex Ferguson too. His one particular fight with Ronaldo became the reason behind Van Nistelrooy’s Manchester United departure.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United in 2001 for a transfer fee of £19 million. He was rejected by the club in the previous season due to a knee surgery making him unfit in the medical session at Old Trafford.

In 219 appearances spanning over five seasons and 150 goals to his name, Van Nistelrooy was a fan favourite at Old Trafford, but with the rise in popularity of Cristiano Ronaldo, it is said that the Dutchman became insecure.

Van Nistelrooy’s bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson

In what became his last season for Manchester United, Van Nistelrooy had soured relations with his manager, particularly after the Carling Cup final against Wigan Athletic in which he was an unused substitute. 

Sir Alex Ferguson had benched the Dutch striker for the final match and made Louis Saha start the game, who had also started in the previous matches of the cup for the club. As United were cruising to victory with two goals from Rooney, and one each from Ronaldo and Saha, Ferguson brought on Vidic and Evra as his final substitutes, which really pinched Nistelrooy as he was left as an unused substitute. 

During the match Nistelrooy verbally abused Ferguson, and that was to be the beginning of the end of the marksman’s career at Old Trafford. 

The fight with Ronaldo became the reason behind Van Nistelrooy’s Manchester United departure

Cristiano Ronaldo came to Manchester United in the summer of 2003 to replace Beckham and is said to have enjoyed a good initial relationship with the Dutch striker. But with time Van Nistelrooy grew frustrated with Ronaldo’s extended dribbles and lack of crosses. Rio Ferdinand heard the striker saying on many occasions during training sessions that he doesn’t want to play with Ronaldo. 

“I can’t play with this guy. He doesn’t even cross the ball, I can’t make my runs because he’s not going to cross the ball,” said Van Nistelrooy, as mentioned by Guillem Balague in his book ‘Ronaldo: The Biography’.

Before Ronaldo came, Van Nistelrooy enjoyed a plethora of crosses from the right by David Beckham and was frustrated by the winger’s refusal to cross and continue with his dribbles and tricks. Beckham was undoubtedly a great crosser, but he had to develop that ability in order to support his lack of pace and tricks. 

On the other hand, when Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford, all he had was immense pace and multitudes of tricks up his sleeves to harass the defenders, but wasn’t a great crosser, partly because he could carry the ball forward himself. This attribute, however, was a striker’s nightmare.

The striker’s frustration grew with passing time and a major bust-up happened between the two of them when Van Nistelrooy kicked Ronaldo in a training session a week before their last game of the 2005-06 season, against Charlton Athletic.

In Cristiano’s biography, Rio Ferdinand recalls this incident, “They had a couple of arguments. Ruud Van Nistelrooy kicked him one time and after that I kicked Ruud just to protect Ronnie a little bit and Ruud swung a punch at me and he missed.”

Van Nistelrooy was already in deep waters due to his behaviour at United throughout the season, and this argument and fight proved to be the final nail in his coffin. Ronaldo started the last match against Charlton, whilst the Dutchman didn’t even make it to the squad. 

The Dutchman never played for the club as the fight with Ronaldo became the reason behind Van Nistelrooy’s Manchester United departure to Real Madrid in the next transfer window for a fee of €14 million.

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