Ruud van Nistelrooy

Like most stories at Old Trafford, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s journey had wonderful beginnings, capped by Alex Ferguson’s faith in his ability that saw United wait for RVN to recover from his injury before snapping him up for 18.5 million pounds. He repaid that debt in spades, scoring 40+ goals in the next two seasons, tallying up an impressive 150 goals in just 219 appearances.

But with all stories involving legends and a certain knighted manager, the ending (or is there still time to turn back?) is again bitter and reeks of mismanagement. For those unaware of the details, this is what happened yesterday before and after the Old Trafford drubbing of Charlton:

Ruud van Nistelrooy storms out

When Alex Ferguson announced to the team at the pre-match meal that Ruud would be benched and Rossi would partner Saha, RVN threw a fit, took a taxi to Old Trafford where his car was parked and went away. No one knows what happened to Ruud after that, but the man was absent from the stadium during the match and in the post-match lap of honor.

When quizzed by the media, Ferguson said this:

“Sometimes in management, you have to take tough decisions. I have made one I feel was in the best interests of Manchester United.”

“There have been a couple of issues during the week which concerned me in terms of the spirit at the club, and on such an important day I just felt Ruud should be left out.”

‘This was such an important game for us; I just wanted everyone together so I felt Ruud should be left out of the team.”

“It’s straightforward. That’s all we need to say at the moment, we’ll be discussing it with the club directors tomorrow and Tuesday and that’s it.”

In short, Ferguson was not happy with RVN’s attitude during training, and that the situation will be resolved within 48 hours — incidentally, before Keane’s testimonial match on Tuesday 9th, 3 pm at Old Trafford. Expect a decision to be made on RVN by then. Even if Ruud plays that match, I doubt that all will be well.

But that’s what happened yesterday. For the last two months RVN has been the ‘third’ striker behind Ferguson’s first-choice pairing of Rooney and Saha. It’s a remarkable fall in the pecking order for a man who scored almost 90 goals in his first two seasons at Old Trafford — perhaps a record for the club and even the Premiership. But my question to Ferguson is: why the hell did it come to this?

RVN — Just the Facts

Two years ago when Arsenal and United were slugging it out at the top of the Premiership, Nistelrooy was mentioned in the same breath as Henry. Henry undoubtedly had better footballing talents, but RVN’s propensity to score was undeniable as the Dutchman led United’s front line and delivered without fail. It was obvious then that RVN was a confidence player (like Forlan), and that if he ever ended up injured or suspended, he would need a run in the side to get back in form.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to have forgotten that in the last 3 months. Saha, at Ruud’s expense, was given an extended run and what was an ideal opportunity to rotate 3 strikers became a sorry excuse for keeping Ruud on the bench. Why would you blame a striker for not fighting hard when, after being first choice for 3 years, he’s benched for two men whose goal tallies combined were less than Ruud’s? Form is temporary, and Saha’s form, despite his obvious talents, can only be attributed to the chances he has gotten.

Ruud’s lack of form then, is also because of a serious lack of chances. When a striker scores 21 goals and the only other striker above him is Henry (who had played much more than RVN this season), you wonder why everyone is calling RVN finished and ripe for sale? His lack of match practice is Ferguson benching him, nothing else.

Is Ruud’s attitude a problem? Consider Silvestre, Ferdinand, Ronaldo. Talented players, but whereas Silvestre tends to make inexplicable, glaring mistakes, Rio and Ronaldo have both been guilty of not giving it their best many times in the last two seasons (in fact, they’ve been blamed much more than RVN has been in the last two months). Yet none of those three are benched — and they shouldn’t be, because they are fantastic players.

Is Ruud’s age a problem? Neville is 30+, Scholes is 30+, Solksjaer and Giggs are 30+, Van der Sar is 30+. In this team, Ruud is definitely a senior player but more middle-aged than old. And Ferguson is not known for selling old players for their age (Keano, anyone?).

It all points to one thing — Ferguson’s authority has been questioned, both on the training ground and yesterday with Ruud’s walkout. While Stam and Becks were shocks, seeing Keane go out for similar reasons showed that no player would be spared.

At the end of the day, RVN suffers because of Ferguson’s lack of foresight in rotating his three strikers. There were many ways to accommodate all three (by playing Rooney as an advanced midfielder) or to keeping subbing them in and out, but apparently Ferguson felt that Rooney could not be benched and that in the final game of the season, with RVN dead certain to start, he was demoted to the bench for Rossi (at a time when Saha should have made way instead).

I don’t buy the training ground incident argument one bit. It’s just spin to justify RVN’s benching, and a shabby one at that.

Ruud may be a selfish player and he has been guilty of not putting his heart in it in the past, but so have been other players, especially Ferguson’s favorite, Ronaldo (whose terrible misses against Charlton were added proof that RVN’s presence alone could have turned the scoreline into a massacre).

Is RVN going out? When the Manchester United official website puts up a notice saying that the situation will be resolved inside 48 hours, it gives out a worrying sign.

RVN — Transfer Speculation

Earlier news that Inter was offering Obefami Martins plus 8 mil for RVN sounded too good to be true, and if that was extreme, the other side was just as absurd with news at half time that Atletico Madrid were asking for RVN and 14.5 mil in exchange for Torres. Sorry guys, but Torres is not worth RVN, let alone 14.5 mil.

The Sun claims that PSV want RVN back, with United holding out for at least 8 million. Still an f’n steal.

Should RVN leave? I think that if he had to be sold, he should have been let go last season (and maybe he would have been if Saha hadn’t been injured) so that United could have cashed in on him fully. It looks unlikely that they will get anything more than 10 mil for him, and despite Rossi and Solksjaer in the ranks, United will definitely need another striker as well.

We’ll find out soon enough. Stay tuned.

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