Idols: How Ruud van Nistelrooy made me love football and Manchester United

Football is a sport that captures the imagination. The greatest of football’s artists are those that capture the imagination of countless people all around the world and inspires the youth of an entire generation. That may sound incredibly corny, but that was how Ruud van Nistelrooy affected a young me.

Van Nistelrooy arrived at Manchester United before the start of the 2001/02 season for a fee of £19 million, a move that was delayed for a year after an initial transfer in 2000 fell apart due to a knee injury suffered by the Dutchman. He missed nearly a year of football before signing for United, but that didn’t seem to have affected him then, scoring on his United debut, a 2-1 Charity Shield defeat to Liverpool. He repaid his worth that season, scoring a total of 36 goals in all competition

Meanwhile, young me was only three years old when Van Nistelrooy signed for United, and while at this age I’ve already started watching some football, I haven’t yet started supporting United (although I did like Lazio for a bit because they had an eagle on their badge, but I digress). My mother was, and still is, a Liverpool supporter, but even at three, I knew not to stray to the path of darkness.

Van Nistelrooy was one of the main reasons that changed.

Think about the goal he scored against Fulham in 2003, how he carried the ball from the halfway line past one, two, three opposition players, before slotting it past the goalkeeper. It’s an amazing goal, easily one of his best. Now imagine seeing that goal as a five-year-old like I did. It was mindblowing.

United had players like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo during Van Nistelrooy’s time at the club, all great, exciting players, and world-renowned superstars. But it was van Nistelrooy’s ability to win games for United with the sheer amount of goals he scored that started it all. And when van Nistelrooy left United in 2006, I was still too young to fully understand why he left. All I knew was that my footballing hero wouldn’t be playing for my favourite club anymore.

Van Nistelrooy was a fantastic striker, an incredibly effective weapon in United’s front line. He amassed a grand total of 150 goals in just 219 games for the club, and with 38 goals, is currently United’s second European top scorer behind Wayne Rooney. He won the league, FA Cup, and League Cup with United, as well as a vast amount of individual honours, including the PFA Player of the Year and the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year. He was a consistent source of goals for United, and that of great excitement for United fans all over the world.

But for this particular fan, van Nistelrooy meant something a little more. He grabbed the attention of a little boy without too much interest in football and turned him into a fan. He was nothing short of an inspiration. Had van Nistelrooy not played for United, I wouldn’t have had as much interest in United back then. I may have ended up not supporting United, and then certainly I wouldn’t be writing for this website. I may have even ended up following my mother to the Dark Side, and I have van Nistelrooy to thank for that not happening.

Written by Adimurti Pramana


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