His first was simple enough – drilled home from the penalty spot – but the next was anything but. Van Nistelrooy was famous for scoring goals from inside the box and did so again here but, this time, he'd carried the ball all the way from his own half before applying the more traditional close-range finish. It was about as direct as you can get: receive possession, run with ball, put straight into the net. But few run past half an opposition team to achieve the effect. Ruud received a standing ovation from the crowd once the cheers had settled down. Inevitably, he added a third just before the final whistle to finish off a stunning individual day at the office.
UNITED 4 SPARTA PRAGUE 1 (04/05)
A sixth and final Ruud hat-trick in Red came in the Champions League, at home to Sparta Prague. Wayne Rooney had taken the limelight on Old Trafford's last European matchday, smashing three on his own United debut, against Fenerbahce, but his senior strike partner more than reasserted himself here.
This was the only occasion Ruud scored four times for the Reds, and he could rarely have negotiated a set of easier finishes. The first was offered on a plate by a careless back-pass; the second from the spot. The third was the pick: latching onto an aerial pass, he expertly poked the ball over the goalkeeper, precisely ensuring the finish dropped under the bar and trickled in. Finally, he tapped home the late Liam Miller's dangerous low cross from the right-hand side. Simply one of our greatest marksmen doing what he did best, on the way to a remarkable 150 goals in 219 United games.