The Divorce of Manchester United and Ruud van Nistelrooy

Breakups are never pretty. No matter how dream-like the early years have been, there is always the inevitable fallout and backbiting that goes on after the relationship is over.

For Manchester United fans who have defended Ruud van Nistelrooy’s abilities as a world-class striker for so many years, to see him leave like this with Ferguson and Ruud pointing fingers at each other is sad. And that’s before you consider that we just lost a player who scored 150 goals in 5 seasons – an average of 30 per season.

Neither side is devoid of blame. Ferguson’s hot-headedness and inability to create a winning squad caused Ruud to request a transfer at the end of the 2004/2005 season. At that time, United had not won the Premiership for a second consecutive year, were bad in Europe and had little hope of winning the next season. Time after time the ball was being lost in the midfield and Ruud was being denied the service he so badly needs to score goals.

Ruud van Nistelrooy wanted to win the Champions League – badly. And he didnt see himself winning it at Manchester United.

I don’t blame him.

But where he went wrong was in refusing to change his game to adapt the changing team. The focus was shifting away from the old guard (of which Ruud was a part) after Beckham and Butt left and moving towards the young players – Rooney and Ronaldo. Ferguson wanted to rebuild United like he had in the early 90s and to do that he needed fresh blood.

Ruud should have adapted, dropped back a bit and should definitely have tried to support. His lack of conviction against Liverpool in the FA cup clash was the final straw – Ferguson was convinced that Ruud did not want to (and could not) be a part of the new Manchester United.

The reported clashes with Ronaldo are not a big deal – You don’t throw out your star striker because he tells your other star player that he’s a teacher’s pet. Ruud has a mean streak (as Ashley Cole and Arsenal fans will attest to) and while that can come out on any occasion (as it did in the Real Madrid press conference where he blamed his falling out with Ferguson as the reason he left United), it’s not something to sell Ruud over.

Someone said yesterday that we should not doubt Ferguson, and that no player sent ‘home’ by Fergie had been a success.

I beg to differ.

Jaap Stam remained one of the best centre-backs in Europe (to draw a fair comparison, Stam was as good as Ferdinand and didn’t have as many problems with motivation as Rio does) until age overtook him. Beckham has enjoyed some of his best form after leaving Manchester United, regardless of the fact that the 2002/2003 campaign saw him as United’s best player of the season. Forlan’s goals at Villareal are no fluke either.

Ferguson has sold good players on personal disagreements. That is unacceptable, especially if you consider that players like Stam and Beckham were quality players and hard fighters – they wouldn’t have let United slide so low in the Champions League or in the Premiership (yes, I consider a 3rd place finish low for United).

It’s not nostalgia, it’s fact. Ferguson has made some bad buys, and some very good ones as well. It’s easy to be wise after the event, but while he’s made mistakes he is also the best manager in Premiership history.

A short tribute to Ruud

This was published earlier in this article

“It is with deep regret and more than a tinge of nostalgia that we witness the final chapter of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s glorious stay with Manchester United. In some ways it is sad to think that he was part of only one Premiership title win, although by all accounts that was his best year for the club. He will leave, as he came, vastly under-rated and always capable of putting in brilliant goals every game.

Soccerlens understands that football is a tough game and good things must always come to an end, so there will be no mudslinging or finger-pointing at Ruud’s transfer. Let’s hope that one day both Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Beckham return to Old Trafford with Real Madrid and that Soccerlens is there to witness what will perhaps be one of the most remarkable moments in footballing history – at least for this fan.”