Twenty years since Ruud's Saints treble
Ruud van Nistelrooy showed no mercy around Christmas time, illustrating his predatory prowess in front of goal with his first hat-trick for the club in a 6-1 win over Southampton, on this day 20 years ago.
The Dutchman was quick off the mark in the first minute, netting the fastest goal of the season at that point, to open the floodgates for a convincing win over a Saints side managed by former Red Gordon Strachan.
The victory may have only lifted United to fourth in the table but it was a sign that the striker was going to be worth every penny of the money invested in him, when completing his delayed arrival from PSV Eindhoven.
Van Nistelrooy doubled the lead in the 34th minute before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got in on the act when converting a corner taken by Nicky Butt.
A jabbed finish to a Paul Scholes through ball completed Ruud's treble, even if Marian Pahars replied for the visitors within a minute. Roy Keane stroked in number five, after an incisive move, and Phil Neville produced probably the pick of the bunch with a thumping drive to make it 6-1.
"It's always nice to get a hat-trick, and get the ball and hold it," explained Ruud afterwards. "I'm very proud."
The prolific Netherlands international would go on to hit five trebles more during a goal-laden stay at Old Trafford.
Only five players have recorded more for the club in our entire history - Denis Law, Jack Rowley, Dennis Viollet, Wayne Rooney and Sir Bobby Charlton.
Saint boss Strachan was in no doubt about what he had witnessed, saying: "He has it all. Some strikers have this theory that, the less they do, they will be fitter when they get the ball. But he was all over the place, absolutely all over the place.
"I've known the manager here for over 20 years and I think he has always said your two strikers determine how well your team plays. I think, on that basis, then I thought there was an awful lot coming from him that was world class."
For his part, Sir Alex Ferguson added: "Ruud's on fire! He's getting stronger. I think it does take it out of you, English football, until you get used to the humdrum nature but he has adjusted very well now. He was nearly out of the game for over a year and, in that respect, it's a great comeback for him."