Ruud van Nistelrooy admits he was “grateful” to receive such a rousing reception from Manchester United supporters during Sunday’s legends game with Real Madrid.
The once prolific striker was a firm favourite during his five season stay at Old Trafford but left under a cloud following a dispute with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Of course, the pair have since made up and the Dutchman was recently in attendance at the boss’s statue unveiling in November.
However, playing at Old Trafford again was another step up for Van Nistelrooy, whose presence prompted rapturous applause from the terraces as he represented both sides even scored for United during the entertaining charity affair.
“I am very grateful for the reception,” Ruud told MUTV, when asked how much he enjoyed the fan reaction. “For me, it meant a lot to come back to be back here, stepping on the pitch again. I was even lucky enough to score in front of the Stretford End again.
“I left all of a sudden after five years and that was a bit awkward, so to come back and play a game again was great. I wanted to thank the fans for all of their support over the years while I was here and their reaction was just a fantastic bonus.
“I really looked forward to coming back and playing here again. It was a fantastic day and playing a half for each side was fantastic, it was great to line up with all of these brilliant players. Everyone enjoyed it and it was a good day for a great cause.”
As for the match itself, which ended in a 2-1 win for Real Madrid, Ruud was happy with his performance and felt United were on the verge of stealing a victory until Ruben de la Red's finely chipped finish put a full stop on proceedings.
“I think we went for it," he explained. “At 1-1, we were pushing for the win and the crowd were behind us. Dwight Yorke hit the bar and it looked like we were going to nick it, but then at the other end it was a fantastic chip – he really dinked it in, it was a fantastic finish. But I think everybody won today.