Dutch goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy struck 150 times for Manchester United during five stellar seasons at Old Trafford, but in his opinion none eclipsed this stunning slalom against the Cottagers en route to the 2002/03 title…
“I think my best goal I scored in my whole career – not just for United – was against Fulham at Old Trafford. The one where I ran from the halfway line and scored. I think that was the best moment of my whole career, looking back on it.
“Of course, I always scored a lot of goals inside the penalty area and this one was totally different to all the others because of where I first picked up possession. Normally it would be a finish with one touch, two touches, maybe three touches, but this goal was nothing like them.
Was this van Nistelrooy’s best United goal?Video
“Looking back, it was a great assist from Roy Keane! I got the ball in the centre-circle, I turned and just started dribbling… and I didn’t stop. I showed a change of pace, ran through two midfielders, advanced on to one of the centre-backs, went past him and then, as I came into the penalty area, I took a touch to the left but then immediately cut it back to the right and just pushed the ball towards the far corner.
“Because I’d taken on the finish almost mid-step, the keeper had no time to set himself; he couldn’t react and the ball rolled into the net. That’s what made the goal: cutting it back and really surprising the goalkeeper with that. In my mind, I was like: woah! I was so happy with that goal.
“Then came the celebrations. Whenever I scored and I had the United fans shouting, ‘Ruud! Ruud! Ruud!’ at me, it was an amazing feeling. From day one, before I even touched the first ball, the crowd was already singing my name.
“That feeling was a long time coming for me. I injured my knee badly in 2000, the day after I was originally supposed to sign for United. I eventually joined a year later, so it was already special just to be a United player, but then things started amazingly for me.
Ruud van Nistelrooy Player profile
“I scored twice against Fulham – past Edwin, of course – at the Stretford End on my Premier League debut, and all the forces just felt like they came together and pushed me to a higher level.
“The connection with the fans was one of those forces. It pushes you. You want it all the time, to have the stadium shouting your name. It’s an amazing feeling; the best thing in the world.”
Van Nistelrooy was speaking exclusively to United Review, our official match programme at Old Trafford.