Football

Ruud Van Nistelrooy's Golden Boot Story Sums Up Alex Ferguson's Mentality

Ruud Van Nistelrooy's Golden Boot Story Sums Up Alex Ferguson's Mentality

Alex Ferguson had the type of mentality that very few in football could match. It made him clash with players in his squad at times, but there is no doubt that Manchester United wouldn't have had anywhere near the same level of success without it.

Second best was never good enough, while the Scot also seemed to care little about personal accolades. That was something that was clear in listening to this story from Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The Dutchman had a remarkable debut season in the Premier League during the 2001/02 campaign, finishing up with 23 goals in the league. However, it was not enough to lead his team to the title as they finished ten points behind Arsenal.

Van Nistelrooy was leading the Golden Boot race heading into the final day of the campaign, sitting one goal ahead of Thierry Henry. He would surely have fancied his chances off adding to his tally against Charlton Athletic, but he would never get the opportunity.

Thierry Henry would score two goals on the final day and pip him to the award.

Appearing on Rio Ferdinand's Vibe With FIVE podcast, van Nistelrooy recalled how Ferguson would drop him for that game, saying their failure to win the league meant he wouldn't get a chance to cement his place at the top of the goalscoring charts.

While disappointed at the time, he said it was a brilliant piece of man management that drove him on the following season...

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Thierry was doing stuff in the Premiership when I was at PSV. That was hard stuff! I want to compete with him to push myself.

Alan Shearer was obviously up there in the top flight for the Golden Boot. First year I was challenging that.

But the gaffer [Alex Ferguson] left me out in the last game of the season. He said, ‘you’re not challenging for the Golden Boot, we didn’t win the league son, you’re out’.

He left me on the stands man, not even on the bench. I didn’t even have a hope! ‘ was up there and was thinking that was a game I could get a few. One more goal...

He made me sharp, in that moment.

No trophies that year so that message, ‘your goals, fine, they help us but you need to connect it to titles’. That was the message.

It was clear in my head when he left me in the stands that I was already starting the new season. When the manager said something it was clear. He just explained it to me like that.

I was sitting there watching the game checking if Thierry scored. He wanted to get me fired up for the next season. I wanted to keep up with Thierry

Van Nistelrooy would score 25 goals in the following campaign, winning the Golden Boot as Manchester United regained their Premier League title.

Safe to say it all worked out in the end.

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Gary Connaughton

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