Update: Ruud returns to Manchester United for training.
May 7th seems such a long time away – Ruud van Nistelrooy was thrown out of the team hotel for showing ‘dissent’ at being benched in place of Rossi (read the story here), and scores of Manchester United fans wondering what had gone wrong with Ferguson.
As news emerged after the season ended, Ruud’s interviews to the media placed the blame squarely on Ferguson – he had denied Ruud a chance to be at Keano’s testimonial, he had kicked him out of the team hotel, etc etc. The striker went to train with the Dutch squad hoping that a successful World Cup would turn things in his favour. Lack of form and a 4-3-3 system not suited to his style of play hampered him to the extent that he sat out Holland’s final game (in which van Basten made the mistake of not replacing Kuyt with Ruud) and ended up looking like a washed up striker past his prime.
And now he’s expected back at Old Trafford, with clubs not willing to pay the transfer fee Manchester United rightfully demand (there’s still a question mark over his ability to regain form, but you wouldn’t bet against him scoring another 20 goals next season). The media is lapping up the scraps of news like rodents lap up toxic waste – ‘oh he will get fined if he doesn’t show up,’ ‘how will Ruud face Ferguson?’ and other such items littering the Guardian and BBC sites.
The Times say his return is ‘far from guaranteed, given his anger at Sir Alex Ferguson’s portrayal of events surrounding his transfer request’. Is Ruud angry at Ferguson for revealing to the press that he had asked to be transferred last season? While Ferguson is to blame for the Ruud situation as much as Ruud is himself, Ruud’s mistake here was asking for a transfer twice after being denied a transfer request last season. He knows that he’s in a bad position at United, and that Ferguson is looking for an opportunity to make him the scapegoat and come out looking clean. Asking to be sold (incidentally, when you’ve top scored for the club in the season where you hardly played after January) when you are already at an disadvantage is suicide against Ferguson.
Bottom line – Ferguson pressured Ruud into making a mistake by shutting him out, and gave him enough rope to hang himself. Ruud took the bait, and now he’s left with the choice of returning to Old Trafford (and face Ferguson) or cop out and stay at home, which will make things even worse for him.
The smart thing for Ruud van Nistelrooy would be to suck it up, return to Old Trafford and patch things up with Ferguson. Alex Ferguson is not a man to forgive or forget and he holds grudges for a long time. But Ruud will not reach the same heights in his career as he did with Ferguson – Beckham, for all his excellent form, still hasn’t. Chances are Ruud won’t either, even if he goes to Madrid and they end up winning something. At United, Ruud still has a chance to prove himself and fight for a place in the squad.
I know, I’m probably being very optimistic and unrealistic. The only other option Ruud has is to sit and wait until someone decides to pay what United want, and that might take a while.