Ruud netted 36 goals in his debut season, a frightening achievement that was incredibly eclipsed in the 2002/03 season as he scored 44 times to inspire United to the Premiership title. Another 30 goals followed in his third season.
Injury ruined his 2004/05 campaign, although he still scored 16 goals in 27 appearances and finished top scorer in the Champions League with eight goals.
The 2005/06 campaign was also tempered with disappointment. Ten goals in 12 games saw Ruud get off to a flyer. By December he had 17 goals from 26 starts. But the return to form and fitness of Louis Saha saw van Nistelrooy edged out of
He was an unused substitute in the Carling Cup final win and wasn’t included in the squad to face Charlton on the final day of the season, with Sir Alex citing issues around “the spirit of the club” as the reason for Ruud’s exclusion.
The Dutch striker left Old Trafford in the summer of 2006 and headed to Spain to join Real Madrid.