Transfer Tales: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Saturday 01 July 2023 18:00

On 1 July 2001, highly-rated striker Ruud van Nistelrooy signed for Manchester United from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.

The British-record £19 million deal had already been agreed in April, but it was made official on 1 July - a year after his initial proposed move to Manchester had collapsed.

Sir Alex Ferguson had finally got his man.

All The Goals: Ruud van Nistelrooy Video

All The Goals: Ruud van Nistelrooy

All The Goals | Watch Ruud van Nistelrooy's 150 United finishes to remind yourself of his greatness...

It was a long time coming for Van Nistelrooy, who looked destined to arrive at Old Trafford in the summer of 2000.

United and PSV had agreed a fee for the Dutchman and, despite being set to be unveiled as the Reds' latest striker in a press conference, his proposed move hit a snag.

Having not played for a month, there were concerns over Ruud's fitness, and in particular his knee.

These worries would ultimately cause the move to collapse, and Van Nistelrooy ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament injury just days later.

The striker did not lose faith, however, and continued working towards his eventual move to M16 a year later.

“From the very start of it all, I was working towards one thing: being a United player,” he said in his UTD Unscripted feature in 2021.

“It was a constant drive. Every single day that I got up, it was my motivation. If I was going to go back, then I needed a good knee for that. I didn’t leave anything to chance.

“I used all the time that I had to work on my knee and my physique at the same time. I wanted to look at it as almost a year out to prepare, where I could invest in myself, in my physique and to use it to come back stronger.”

UTD Unscripted: I had to fill that empty chair


Read the fascinating story behind Ruud van Nistelrooy's protracted transfer to Old Trafford in our latest long read.

Sir Alex didn't lose sight of his top transfer target and, as Ruud revealed, he kept in contact with the striker throughout the next 12 months.

Van Nistelrooy continued: “[He said]: “Start your rehab, get it right and you’ll be a United player in the end,” and he kept calling throughout my rehab.

We were in touch all the time. That was special too, because it kept the bond between us going. Obviously the deal was completely off when I got injured, but there was a connection there and he kept that going, so in my mind it didn’t change.”

Ruud van Nistelrooy - "How Sir Alex kept me hungry for more"


It's the long-awaited arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy to UTD Podcast. The Dutch goal machine joined us to look back on his career and his goal-laden years at Old Trafford in particular. Ruud went into great detail about his failed move to United the first time around, revealing the emotions and conversations that went on in 2000. He also spoke about the fierce rivalry with Arsenal, how he felt in direct competition with Thierry Henry, and that missed penalty incident with Martin Keown. We also addressed the rumours about his conflict with Cristiano Ronaldo, with Ruud telling us about training ground bust-ups and how things stand between the two since then.

In April 2001, United and PSV agreed a deal for the transfer of Van Nistelrooy, for a second time, with the Dutch forward being unveiled as a Red in July after passing his medical.

Ruud would go on to score 150 times for United across five seasons and become a firm fans' favourite in the process.