When Real Madrid completed transfer of Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy – Paul Pogba to follow same path?

Paul Pogba may yet get his wish and ‘try a new challenge’ away from Manchester United.

The European transfer window closes on 2 September and it is thought he and Real Madrid want each other.

Pogba has been linked with a move to Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid all summer

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He appears to be angling for a move, just like Ruud van Nistelrooy did more than a decade ago.

“When we played the final, that’s when I started to feel unhappy,” Van Nistelrooy told the assembled media at the Bernabeu in 2006.

This 30-year-old had just completed his £10.2million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid and his unhappiness stemmed from being left out of the League Cup final win against Wigan in February.

Van Nistelrooy didn’t even get off the bench in the 4-0 hammering, with Wayne Rooney scoring twice and Louis Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo getting the others.

Saha had played and scored in the previous rounds and Ferguson thought it only fair he start the final and reiterated this to the Dutchman when informing him of his team selection pre-match, though added he was hopeful of giving him some minutes.

“We were on cruise control against Wigan and I saw an ideal opportunity to give [January signings Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic] a taste of the game,” Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. “They were my final substitutions.

Van Nistelrooy was not happy with his role as spectator in the 2006 League Cup final
Getty Images – Getty

“I turned to Ruud and said: ‘I’m going to give these two lads a part of the game.’ They were going to get a touch, a smell of winning something with Manchester United. ‘You ****‘ said Van Nistelrooy. I’ll always remember that. Could not believe it. [Assistant manager] Carlos Queiroz turned on him. It became fractious in the dugout. The other players were telling him: ‘Behave yourself’.”

And that was the beginning of the end for him as a Man United player. Fergie said his behaviour got worse and even left him out of the final match of the season – a training ground argument with Ronaldo didn’t help.

Having joined from PSV in 2001, the Dutch striker scored 150 goals in 218 games for Man United, but started to get itchy feet in 2005
Getty – Contributor

In fact, Van Nistelrooy had made it known he wanted out in 2005 as he didn’t believe the club could ever win the Champions League with young players like Rooney and Ronaldo.

His heart was set on Real already, the Spanish giants were similarly keen, but Fergie convinced him otherwise and he remained. A year later, though, he got his wish.

When he finally completed the move, Van Nistelrooy became Real’s third signing under new president Ramon Calderon, following Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Brazil midfielder Emerson.

Van Nistelrooy is one of Man United’s greatest goal scorers, but his career at Old Trafford ended on a sour note
Getty – Contributor

Having had an initial bid for him rejected Calderon said when he got his man: “We have a perfect striker who combines efficiency and power with great footballing technique.”

He was right. In just 218 games for United, Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals to more than repay the £19m the club paid PSV for him in 2001.

Asked whether he wanted to leave United because he felt manager Sir Alex Ferguson was supporting other players and not giving him the support he deserved, Van Nistelrooy said at his unveiling: “You summed up my feelings quite well.”

At Real Madrid, Van Nistelrooy’s continued his goal scoring and finished with 64 goals in 97 games across four seasons
AFP – Getty

However, he did eventually apologise for his behaviour, phoning Fergie out of the blue in 2010 to personally to tell his former manager he was in the wrong.

“I like people who can apologise. I’ve always admired that. In the modern culture of self-absorption, people forget there is such a word as sorry,” Fergie continues in his autobiography.

“Footballers are cocooned by the manager and the club, the media, agents, or pals who just tell them how flipping good they are. It’s refreshing to find one who can pick up a phone much later and say, ‘I was wrong, and I’m sorry.’ Ruud offered no explanation. Perhaps I should have taken that chance to say, ‘Why did it go that way?’”


Regardless of the bitter taste his exit left, an uncanny ability to find the back of the net so frequently make Van Nistelrooy an Old Trafford legend and one of the club’s greatest ever goal scorers.

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