Manchester United, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and bloody tears

Where were you when Old Trafford worshipped Ruud van Nistelrooy?

It’s a pity that Real Madrid never came up against Manchester United in Europe this season – if only Real had beaten Bayern and then negotiated the impossible against Milan, we would have enjoyed an incredible double leg feature against David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

As the season rolls to an end, Manchester United are the Premiership champions and few would find faults with Sir Alex Ferguson at this point – tactical defeats in the FA Cup final and Champions League semi-final apart. Manchester United have gone so far beyond media expectations that for everyone, it’s more a case of waiting for them to fall so that the buggers can laugh again.

But this team, this club, they could always win the league. They showed it last season when an injury-riddled squad pushed to 2nd place. The same spirit, plus a midfield anchor, and fewer injuries could have won them the title. And it did this season.

So it’s all good at Manchester United, especially after the news that Owen Hargreaves is on his way. Big signing, big ambitions and already bookies will be putting United’s name as title contenders next season, genuine this time instead of the bogus 4th / 5th place slot biased columnists were giving them before the start of the season.

But while we celebrate, let’s not forget the one problem that still remains in the squad – the lack of a world-class goal-poacher a la Ruud van Nistelrooy.

When Ruud was being sidelined at Manchester United last season, it was shocking to see United fans turn on him. Here’s a player who you could give the ball and trust 100% that he would get you a goal, or help you create it. He may not have Thierry Henry’s skills but his effectiveness was never in question, nor was his passion for the game.

Look at the top clubs this season (or any season) – they have star players they can, in moments of crisis, pump the ball to and hope for a goal. Chelsea have Drogba, Arsenal have had Henry for so many years, Newcastle had Shearer, Milan had Shevchenko and now Kaka, Liverpool had Owen, and Manchester United had RVN.

This season, Manchester United relied on Cristiano Ronaldo – an ironic option given the circumstances RVN left Manchester United. He’s got the goals but ultimately you’re asking a winger / attacking midfielder to do a striker’s job. He’s going to do it in the bulk of games, but when it comes to the biggest stage, it’s asking a 22-year old winger a bit too much.

Manchester United have missed RVN this season – it doesn’t show in the results but we’ve missed him. Mind you, we’ve also got some of the greatest wins in recent memory – the comebacks against Blackburn and Everton, the Fulham and Roma massacres – classic stuff.

Ok, so I’ll be dead honest – I’ve missed Ruud scoring for Manchester United. There was a time when you look at the players on the United lineup and say – yes, these are legends, I can trust my team with them.

I trust the current bunch, but if Fletcher and Smith are what we get for selling RVN and David Beckham, you’ve got to own and say that Fergie bottled those two.

Yea, I know, let it go…

Ruud Van Nistelrooy Goals

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