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Old 29th June 2006, 16:25   #1
Paul Brooks
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Default Ruud can't survive on goals alone

Ruud can't survive on goals alone
Paul Hince

NO cheap joke intended here, but is it any wonder that Ruud van Nistelrooy is walking around with a particularly long face these days?

He's had a tough time recently has Ruudy-boy. He ended last season in Sir Taggart's bad books, and now he's out of favour with the Holland coach Marco van Basten - who dumped the Manchester United star on to the bench for the last-16 showdown against Portugal on Monday night.

Even when van Basten decided to make a forward substitution against Big Phil's team, he snubbed van Nistelrooy and sent on Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

What has van Nistelrooy done to upset his club manager and international coach? Apparently it's all about work ethic - or, if you prefer it, team ethic. Fergie has danced around the subject but van Basten has come right out and said it. Van Nistelrooy has not been pulling his weight.

And if you wanted the perfect example of how professional football has changed down the years, then van Nistelrooy's fall from grace with his club and international bosses is the clearest one imaginable.

Many times in the 1960s I watched Jimmy Greaves in action for Spurs and England. Greaves, to my mind, was put on this planet for one purpose only - to score goals.

When it came to putting the ball into the net, Jimmy was an absolute genius, the most natural goalscorer I have ever seen in my life. You can't teach a player to do that - it's a gift from a much higher authority.

But on a pitch ankle deep in mud, Greaves would still walk off at the end with a pristine white shirt.

You see, he didn't run around like a lunatic tackling anything that moves. In fact he didn't tackle full stop. Nor did you ever see him back in his own half helping out his defence.

To Jimmy's way of thinking, his defenders had their job to do and he had his. And his job was to score goals, which he did with amazing frequency.

Bill Nicholson, the manager who brought Greaves back to London after his nightmare spell at AC Milan, never complained about Jimmy's work-rate - or lack of it - and would probably have cut off his right hand rather than drop his little goal-scoring machine.

Idol

The Spurs boss would have been strung up by his own fans if he had axed the idol of the White Hart Lane crowd.

More importantly, Bill was happy that Greaves had fulfilled his part of the bargain. Jimmy had been bought to score goals, and score goals he did for Spurs - by the bucketful.

Now let's wind the clock forward four decades to the day van Nistelrooy arrived at Old Trafford from PSV Eindhoven. United's part of the bargain was to give the young Dutchman the chance he craved to perform in the top tier of English football. It cost the Reds a whopping 19m to satisfy van Nistelrooy's ambitions.

The striker's part of the bargain was obvious - to score goals on a regular basis during his career in Manchester.

Has van Nistelrooy fulfilled his obligations? I've just fished out his scoring record during his five seasons at Old Trafford, and the answer to that question is a deafening "Yes".

Van Nistelrooy's lowest goal-scoring total in a season since donning the red shirt came in the 2004-05 campaign, when he found the net 16 times.

It needs to be pointed out, however, that injury ruled him out of a sizeable chunk of that season.

Injury free, his lowest scoring total in all competitions was in the season which ended last May, during which he found the target 24 times.

His highest scoring total was in 2002-03, when he notched 44 goals. That was sandwiched between season 2001-02 (36 goals), and 2003-04 (30 goals).

Figures

Add those scoring figures together and you will see that, in five seasons at Old Trafford, van Nistelrooy has bagged exactly 150 goals, an average of 30 a season.

I would be astonished if any other striker in the top flight can match the Dutchman's scoring achievements over the corresponding period.

Perhaps now you can understand, and maybe agree, when I say that the entire philosophy of English football has changed with the passage of time.

And that is shared by those countries which play English-style, high-tempo football heavily reliant on the work ethic of every outfield player.

When Jimmy Greaves was in his pomp 40 years ago, it would have been unthinkable to drop a striker who could average 30 goals per season.

Goals on their own these days no longer meet a manager's requirements. They are as concerned about what that striker does OFF the ball as they are about what he does with the goal at his mercy.

But as we've seen from van Nistelrooy's recent experiences with both United and Holland, a striker has to comply with the team ethic no matter how many goals he scores.

What happens if he doesn't comply? Ask Fergie and van Basten. The striker is bombed out without giving it a second thought.

Am I saying that Ferguson and van Basten were wrong to drop van Nistelrooy? Not for one second. They are simply two managers answering and reflecting the needs of modern English-style football.

Now a striker is expected to tackle and to track opponents. In other words, to run himself into the ground like the rest of his team-mates.

Van Nistelrooy, it seems to me, has never fully bought into that principle - and he's paid the price for it with both club and country.

But I've got every sympathy for him. Because not only was he born at the wrong time, he's also playing his football in the wrong place.

Unchanged

He should be wearing the yellow shirt of Brazil because, unlike England, their philosophy on football has remained unchanged from the day they adopted the beautiful game.

In all probability, you will have spotted Ronaldo playing for Brazil in the World Cup finals.

Well, let's be honest. You couldn't have missed spotting him. He's the size of a bus. If he was of the opposite sex you would swear he was pregnant. As big at the front as he is at the back. He doesn't run, he waddles.

Even at my age I would race Ronaldo for his wages over 100 yards - and he would end up poorer.

Exactly how overweight is the fat lad? At least a stone I would guess.

I'm not guessing when I say that, on condition alone, he would never be picked for an English Premiership team or for any other team that plays English-style football.

But Brazilians aren't bothered about team ethic or work ethic.

Their coach Carlos Albertro Parreira doesn't give two hoots that Ronaldo is as fat as a pot-bellied pig. He's got no intention of dropping roly-poly Ronnie.

Why? Because Ronaldo scores goals. In fact, he's now the record scorer in the entire history of the World Cup.

Had van Nistelrooy been born a Brazilian he would be a national hero today, just as Ronaldo is.

So who is right - Holland or Brazil? Depends on your point of view. Me? I'd take individuality over team ethic any day of the week.

And I'll back up my argument with this question:

Which is the most successful nation in the history of the World Cup? Point proved, I believe.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co....als_alone.html
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