26/12/2009 09:06, Report by James Tuck
Players of the Decade: #6
Van Nistelrooy's goals tally and strike-rate for United were astonishing: more than 100 goals in his first three seasons, the Reds’ all-time top European scorer in his fourth term, and 150 strikes in fewer than 200 starts overall.
Named PFA Players' and Fans' Player of the Year in his first season, Ruud was the kind of prolific frontman not seen at Old Trafford since Denis Law. He was a bona fide poacher: if the ball fell to him in the box, it invariably ended up buried in the opposition net.
Not that the Dutchman was incapable of the odd spectacular goal – think solo effort against Fulham in 2003 and crashing volley at Charlton two years later.
Had Ruud not left for Real Madrid in 2006, he may well have gone on to eclipse Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time United top scorer mark of 249.
It was reassuring to have a player who guaranteed us 25 goals a season. In a relatively lean spell for United, it made the task of winning trophies just that bit easier.