United feats: Ruud's scoring streak

Sunday 03 April 2022 15:00

Ruud van Nistelrooy this week was announced as PSV Eindhoven's next head coach. The Dutchman is one of the most prolific goalscorers in Manchester United history and as he hits the headlines rather than the back of the net, United Review - our much-loved matchday programme - looked at one truly unique United feat he accomplished in 2003.

Wayne Rooney holds the record for most goals for United (253, in case you’ve forgotten) and was often regarded as a streaky striker, producing purple patches of form where the ball kept on hitting the back of the net. But even Wazza couldn’t match the scoring runs of his predecessor in our no.10 shirt: Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

The Dutchman still holds United’s club record for goals in consecutive Premier League games, a 10-game marker that stood for the whole division until Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy surpassed it in November 2015 when he netted against United to register in an 11th straight league game. In the Old Trafford annals, however, van Nistelrooy’s endeavours are yet to be beaten.

The former PSV Eindhoven star hit a hat-trick in a 3-0 Old Trafford victory over Fulham on 22 March 2003, and thus began a sequence that took successive scoring to new levels amongst Reds marksmen. A double in a 4-0 win over Liverpool quickly followed, before further strikes in April against Arsenal, Newcastle, Blackburn Rovers, and Tottenham Hotspur.

Sandwiched in-between were UEFA Champions League goals home and away against Real Madrid, so, by the end of the 2002/03 season, having also notched against Charlton Athletic and Everton, he’d scored in each of United’s last 10 games in all competitions (bagging 15 goals in total). Failing to score in August’s Community Shield ended that particular all competitions run, but two further goals in the opening two league games of 2003/04 stretched the feat in the Premier League to 10 – a sequence in which he also scored 15 times.

Good luck in your managerial career, Ruud


Read the full story on United legend van Nistelrooy taking on his first job as a head coach.

When he failed to score the next time out, despite United beating Wolves 1-0 at home, this ended his chances of equalling the achievement of Everton’s lethal Dixie Dean, who managed 12 goalscoring Division Two appearances in a row in 1930/31, and Sheffield United’s Irish striker Jimmy Dunne who clocked up his own dozen in the top flight in 1931/32.

Ruud’s feat stood as an overall Premier League record for 12 years, when Vardy surpassed his achievement by notching against the Reds at the King Power Stadium. He too fell one game short of matching the feats of Dean or Dunne. Within Old Trafford history, however, van Nistelrooy’s club record was far from anomalous; in his debut season (2001/02), he scored in eight consecutive league matches – nine in all competitions – to equal the then Premier League record jointly held by Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, and Mark Stein.

How do those tallies compare to other leagues? Cristiano Ronaldo scored in 11 consecutive games in both La Liga and Serie A, with Real Madrid and Juventus respectively, while Gabriel Batistuta did the same in Italy’s top-flight with Fiorentina. In Germany, Robert Lewandowski netted in 15 successive games with Bayern Munich but was still one behind Gerd Muller (16) with the same club. Then there’s Lionel Messi, who scored in a simply absurd 21 games in a row for Barcelona. Still, clearly van Nistelrooy, and Vardy, sit in esteemed company. 

In terms of streaks in other competitions, Cristiano Ronaldo equalled our European Cup/Champions League record for scoring in consecutive matches earlier this season. By netting in each of our first five group stage games, he matched Tommy Taylor (1957) and van Nistelrooy (2002/03). In the FA Cup there are seven players who have each scored in four straight Cup ties (see table, below), with Louis Saha posting the longest sequence in the League Cup: scoring (six goals) in five straight ties in 2005/06’s triumphant campaign.

Van Nistelrooy's top 10 United goals Video

Van Nistelrooy's top 10 United goals

This countdown of Ruud van Nistelrooy goals is a reminder of how utterly ruthless the Dutchman was...

Despite a pantheon of goalscoring greats representing the Reds across our history – the likes of Law, Best, Charlton, Rooney, van Persie, Ronaldo, Pearson, Rowley and Spence – none have come close to van Nistelrooy’s all competitions record. Jimmy Turnbull (a Red from 1907-10) was the first to score in six successive games for United, hitting two hat-tricks in that run, and Joe Spence matched that feat in both 1921 and 1931. Tommy Taylor also mustered six in a row, and so did Charlton (twice), while Herd, Best, Yorke, Scholes and Ronaldo all managed it once.

All of which makes Ruud’s amazing scoring streaks all the more impressive. None but Ruud have managed seven in a row, eight on the bounce, or nine in succession, let alone his record-setting 10. In terms of scoring runs, he remains the benchmark for all United forwards.

Louis Saha (right) has the longest scoring streak for United in the League Cup, which he and Cristiano Ronaldo are pictured with here in 2006.


All competitions
Ruud van Nistelrooy - 10 games (22.03.2003 to 11.05.2003)

Premier League (and all league)
Ruud van Nistelrooy - 10 games (22.03.2003 to 23.08.2003)

European Cup / Champions League
Tommy Taylor - 5 games (16.01.1957 to 25.09.1957)
Ruud van Nistelrooy – 5 games (13.11.2002 to 25.02.2003)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 5 games (14.09.2021 to 23.11.2021)

FA Cup
Stan Pearson - 4 games (28.02.1948 to 08.01.1949)
Albert Quixall - 4 games (04.03.1963 to 30.03.1963
David Herd - 4 games (25.05.1963 to 15.02.1964)
Denis Law - 4 games (25.01.1969 to 24.02.1969)
Jimmy Greenhoff - 4 games (15.01.1979 to 20.02.1979)
Wayne Rooney - 4 games (16.02.2015 to 29.01.2016)
Romelu Lukaku – 4 games (05.01.2018 to 17.03.2018)

League Cup
Louis Saha - 5 games (30.11.2005 to 26.02.2006)

*All stats for consecutive matches played by the team, not the individuals