Why Did Ruud Van Nistelrooy Leave Man Utd? Exit Explained


Ruud van Nistelrooy was Manchester United’s most prolific striker in the early-to-mid 2000s. On his day, he was among the greatest finishers that the game has ever seen. Everything went so well for so long at United, so why did he leave?

On July 28, 2006, Manchester United sold Van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid for a reported £10.2 million. The Dutchman lost his regular starting spot in 2005-06 due to Louis Saha’s form and Cristiano Ronaldo’s slight change of position to a more advanced role. His relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson also deteriorated.

Van Nistelrooy’s last game for Manchester United came on May 1, 2006. He played the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough in the Premier League.

Why did Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sir Alex Ferguson fall out?

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson began to go downhill during Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the 2006 League Cup final. Van Nistelrooy was an unused substitute despite being told to warm up in the second half. Once he realised he was not going to play, the striker snapped at his manager on the touchline.

Sir Alex informed Van Nistelrooy before the match that Louis Saha – a regular in the competition’s earlier rounds – was going to start in his place. While United’s former number 10 had no issues with being on the bench, he was left angered by Sir Alex’s decision not to give him any minutes after warming up.

In a 2023 interview on The Overlap, Van Nistelrooy told his former teammate Gary Neville that he was wrong to react angrily. He also revealed that he phoned Sir Alex a year after leaving United to apologise.

When did Ruud van Nistelrooy join Man Utd?

On April 23, 2001, Ruud van Nistelrooy signed for Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven for a British record transfer fee of £19 million. The former Netherlands international was supposed to move to United in 2000, but the deal was delayed by a year after he sustained an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury.

At the time, United were in need of a shake-up in attack. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were coming to the end of their Old Trafford careers, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as one of the club’s only options up front.

In his first game for United, Van Nistelrooy played 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss against Liverpool in the Charity Shield on August 12, 2001. He scored his first goal for the club that day.

How many goals did Ruud van Nistelrooy score for Manchester United?

Ruud van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in 219 games for Manchester United. The striker’s best goalscoring season came in 2002-03 when he found the net 44 times in 52 games in all competitions. He scored 95 Premier League goals between 2001 and 2006, meaning he fell just short of earning a spot in the Premier League 100 Club.

In terms of trophies, Van Nistelrooy won one Premier League title, one FA Cup and one League Cup during his five years at Old Trafford. He also featured in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year twice.

Van Nistelrooy retired in 2012 at the age of 35. He ended his career after a season in La Liga with Malaga.