Was Selling Ruud Van Nistelrooy Really Sir Alex Ferguson's Biggest Mistake?

Ricky O'NealAnalyst ISeptember 18, 2008

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is arguably one of the most prolific strikers ever to grace Old Trafford, and his goal scoring record for Manchester United sits amongst the most celebrated legends of the club.

When he was abruptly sold to Real Madrid in 2006, many were quick to slate Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to do away with the Dutch hitman who had netted a phenomenal 149 goals in just over 200 games.

Now, following United's slow start to the season this year, old questions are beginning to creep up about how calculated Ferguson's sale of Van Nistelrooy was, and if the fairly recent acquisitions of Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez are a sign that United are still missing something up front.

At the root of Van Nistelrooy's departure was a long running feud with Cristiano Ronaldo. Couple this with an increasingly bad attitude, arrogance and laziness on the pitch, and it's easy to see why he was sold.

Fergie hasn't flinched when it comes to offloading superstars, and his motto of no player is bigger than the club was powerfully reinforced when he brought an end to the Dutchman's career at United.

Van Nistelrooy's ability continued to fuel his goal scoring habit in La Liga however, with a staggering 55 goals in 88 appearances to date. You would be forgiven for assuming this kind of service to Madrid can't have escaped the attention of the United manager.

Like myself, many were convinced he had more to give to the club but when I look at the team today, I can't help but think United have become an even better team.

Attacking play is less predictable, counter attacking is swift, pacey and effective, opposing defences constantly struggle with the movement of the versatile forwards and goals are spread all over the team from players in all sorts of positions.

Most importantly, team harmony is kept intact. I came to realise that Ferguson was the first to know Van Nistelrooy would continue his goal scoring exploits at another club. He was well aware that Van Nistelrooy wasn't passed his best. It all boiled down to keeping the most fundamental laws of discipline and respect intact at a big club where big egos can be disastrous for team morale.

If anything, selling Ruud Van Nistelrooy was just another example of Ferguson's unmatchable judgement and wealth of experience, unwavering in the face of great talent and long serving players who have helped United become the force they are today. Just ask the likes of Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, and David Beckham if you need any elaboration.

But the two Premiership titles and the UEFA Champions League accolades are the biggest indication yet that Manchester United have truly benefited from Van Nistelrooy's departure.

So three years on, I ask myself the same question I did before. Was selling Ruud Van Nistelrooy Sir Alex's big mistake?

The answer? A resounding no.