Controversy at Manchester United

On February 26, Van Nistelrooy was an unused substitute at Manchester United’s League Cup final against Wigan Athletic. His place in the line-up was given to Louis Saha, who scored the second goal in a 4-0 win. This caused lots of controversy but the player declined claims that he has had a rift with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

He was also left on the bench for six consecutive matches and suffered a goal drought, as he was not getting in the starting line up. However, in the following game against West Ham, Van Nistelrooy returned to the Manchester United starting line-up as captain, and scored the winning goal. In the game the following Saturday, against Bolton Wanderers, Van Nistelrooy found himself back on the bench – however, he came on as a substitute, and for the second successive game, scored the winning goal, his 150th for the club.

Having not started for seven of the last eight games, Van Nistelrooy lost his place as the joint-highest goalscorer in the Premiership this season with 21 goals, with Thierry Henry having scored 24. Fresh doubt has been spread over Van Nistelrooy’s future when he was left out of the team to play Charlton Athletic in the final game of the season on 7 May 2006.

Ferguson claimed that Van Nistelrooy, angry at the decision, left the ground and went home 3 hours before kickoff. Although, other reports suggest that he was forced to leave the ground by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson further said that he was left out of the team because of a “number of issues”: “There have been a couple of issues during the week that concerned me in terms of the spirit at the club,” he said. “On such an important day, I just felt that Ruud should be left out.” He added, “We’ll be discussing it with the club’s directors.” United won the game 4-0, with youngster Giuseppe Rossi playing the match.

On May 9, 2006, Setanta Sports claimed to exclusively reveal the real reason behind Van Nistelrooy’s non-inclusion in the squad for the game against Charlton. According to Setanta, van Nistelrooy and team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo had come to blows during a training session. Ruud allegedly criticised Ronaldo’s tendency to keep the ball, instead of passing, and then the two fought. Van Nistelrooy then, allegedly, said “go running to your daddy”. Ronaldo’s father had died earlier in the season, though the article claims that Van Nistelrooy was not referring to Ronaldo’s father, but to his fellow Portuguese Carlos Queiroz.

On 9 May 2006, Ruud was told by Sir Alex Ferguson that he would not be allowed to play in the testimonial game for former team mate and ex-Manchester United captain, Roy Keane. Despite an excellent season for Manchester United, Van Nistelrooy is said to have become frustrated by a lack of playing time and is most likely to move on after the World Cup. The decision by the United management to continue to deny Van Nistelrooy opportunities has been seen as controversial due to the striker’s immense popularity amongst the Old Trafford faithful, compared to the less popular Saha. On 13 June 2006, Bayern Munich admitted to being interested in obtaining Ruud van Nistelrooy’s services. However, with the arrival of Andriy Shevchenko at Chelsea FC, Andriy’s previous club AC Milan are said to also be chasing Ruud.

He has also been the target of Newcastle, as a replacement for injured Michael Owen or the retiring Alan Shearer. All the rumours of Ruud moving to a new club at the start of the new season were thought to have died away after club manager, Sir Alex Ferguson stated on MUTV that Van Nistelrooy would be continuing his career at Manchester United. However, on 14th July 2006, Manchester United Manager, Alex Ferguson confirmed that Ruud wanted to leave the club. Rumours suggest a transfer to Real Madrid or Bayern Munich is possible. Van Nistelrooy has been said to have agreed terms with Real Madrid already, however the stumbling block seems to concern price. Real are reported to be preparing a bid of 10m with Manchester United likely to hold out for 15m.

Real also have injury problems so may yet be forced to meet these demands. But the future of the player at Manchester United has ended after falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson. Ruud will be a Real Madrid player at the beginning of the 2006-07 season. The new coach of Real, Fabio Capello has publicly stated his admiration for the player. Ruud will also be relishing the chance to link up with the former England captain and Manchester United winger David Beckham, but unfortunately for the Spanish club, Manchester United had rejected an offer from Real Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson said that the offer was an insult to them (Manchester United and Ruud).

Real Madrid announced on July 27, 2006, that Ruud van Nistelrooy has become a Real player. His transfer fee is reported to be 15 million, and he is set to sign a 3-year contract with the club on 28th July.