22/03/2003, Old Trafford
MANCHESTER UNITED 3
(Van Nistelrooy 45 (pen), 68, 90)
United: Barthez; G Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, O'Shea; Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs; Solskjaer, Van Nistelrooy. Subs not used: Blanc, Ricardo, Forlan, Fortune, Fletcher.
Fulham: Taylor; Ouaddou, Melville, Knight, Harley; Malbranque, Legwinski, Djetou, Boa Morte; Saha, Marlet. Subs not used: Herrera, Inamoto, Clark, Sava, Wome.
The Dutch striker thrilled the home majority in the 67,706 crowd with a clinical display of predatory finishing and deservedly took home the match ball.
Fulham kept their sheet clean until the stroke of half-time when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fouled inside the area, allowing van Nistelrooy to finish with aplomb from the resulting penalty kick. Ruud's second came shortly after the hour with a rampaging run that began inside his own half, before slotting past Maik Taylor in front of the adoring Stretford End.
A third goal to seal his fourth United hat-trick was added on 90 minutes to conclude a fine day and maintain pressure on league leaders Arsenal.
“Ruud van Nistelrooy was outstanding,” declared Sir Alex. “His second goal will be up there with the best goals in Old Trafford’s history. It had courage, determination, drive and speed.”