I recently had an argument with a pal on the great strikers we saw growing up. Names like Shevchenko, Crespo and Pipo Inzaghi were all mentioned but he was adamant that Thierry Henry was hands down the best. I refused to believe this as the best goal scorer I saw with my two eyes was easily Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
The problem arose from our differing viewpoints (or because I support United), by his logic if Henry was a better player, which I agreed, then by default he must be a better striker. He told me about his assists, how he brought other players into the game and moments of magic but after various YouTube videos later my mind was not changed. If you like strikers that score goals, like I do, then Van Nistelrooy would be your choice and I failed to see how he or anyone else could underrate such a great striker.
Sir Alex Ferguson initially tried to sign Van Nistelrooy in 2000 but after a failed medical and rupturing ligaments in his knee the transfer was put on hold until the following year and United fans (myself included) rejoiced that Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith in the Dutch Predator.
In his 5 years at United any target put in front of him he demolished. He scored 36 goals in his first season, with 23 in the league and 10 in the Europe on his way to picking up the Sir Matt Busby player of the year award. The standard was set but the following season he managed to exceed this grabbing an astonishing 44 goals helping United recapture the league. The following season he scored 30 times and although 14 less than the previous season, this was still an impressive return.
I will always wonder how many more goals Van Nistelrooy could have scored if not for injuries especially during the 2004-2005 season but even they could only slow down the inevitable and Van Nistelrooy grabbed 16 goals in 27 appearances.
In a game against Lyon, his 33rd in the Champions League for United, Van Nistelrooy scored twice to pull United back into the game after going 2-0 down. The goals also had other significance beyond the fact they saved United from defeat. They were the 29th and 30th goals Van Nistelrooy had scored for United in Europe breaking Denis Law’s record of 28 that had been set decades before and before he left Old Trafford, Van Nistelrooy would score 8 more times to leave a still standing record of 38 European goals.
In his final season at Old Trafford, Van Nistelrooy would score 21 league goals, 24 total bringing his overall haul in his 5 years at Old Trafford to 150 goals in 219 appearance.
Van Nistelrooy was undoubtedly the finest striker United had seen since Denis Law with his predatory instinct second to none. He was deadly in the box with both his feet and his head and was a cert to hit the back of the net from the penalty spot (although notably he did miss against Arsenal when he had a chance to cut short their incredible 49 game unbeaten run).
His goal scoring record more than speaks for itself as he scored 95 times in 150 Premier League games, grabbed his 100th United in only his 3rd season and in Europe he has scored 60 times in only 81 games second only to Raul’s 66 goals although with Raul needing 128 appearances to do so Van Nistelrooy’s strike rate is definitely better.
I think as a striker Van Nistelrooy is massively underrated and his reputation suffers as he is labelled as merely poacher but he is more than that. Pipo Inzaghi is a poacher, Van Nistelrooy is a predator who capitalises on any mistake a defender makes to get a goal. His knack for creating chances as well as goals out of nothing should be applauded. More significantly he is a great goal scorer as well as a scorer of great goals. Although his strikes may not be as memorable as Henry’s, particularly notable efforts against Fulham, Arsenal, Charlton and Juventus (pre-season) come to mind when you think of the great goals he scored.
The new modern striker is expected to do a whole host of things but Van Nistelrooy isn’t a modern striker rather he is a throwback to a time where strikers scored goals so if you need someone to do that, Ruud is your man.
The video is 9 plus minutes long but in these 9 minutes you will see a goal scoring artist paint a masterpiece:
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