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Rediff.com  » Sports » Van Nistelrooy targets Millwall

Van Nistelrooy targets Millwall

May 21, 2004 13:33 IST
Ruud van Nistelrooy has bad memories of the Millennium Stadium.

Manchester United's Dutch striker has played three games there before, losing the first two and missing a penalty in the third.

So after a season of indifferent form and frustrating injuries, the 27-year-old international will need little motivating for Saturday's FA Cup final against first division underdogs Millwall.

Van Nistelrooy, like United, had to settle for third-best in the league campaign, finishing behind Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry in the individual scoring charts.

The bustling Dutchman never seemed fully to recover from the late penalty miss and his subsequent jostling by Arsenal's players in the pivotal 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in September.

His tally of 20 league goals was still very respectable but only first place will do for the world's richest soccer club and speculation persists that he may leave Alex Ferguson's team in the close season.

United have been linked with Leeds's combative striker Alan Smith this week, with Van Nistelrooy being tipped for a possible switch to Real Madrid.

On the other hand, the recruitment of a third out-and-out striker to compete with Van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha for a place may be just what is required for United to get the

best from their goalscorers.

The Dutchman also said on April 30 he intended to honour the four-year deal he signed in January.

Either way, he has plenty to prove on Saturday, be it to United or potential suitors, on a ground where he has not enjoyed much luck to date.

Van Nistelrooy marked his first United appearance in August 2001 by scoring in the 2-1 Community Shield defeat in Cardiff by Liverpool.

Last season he drew a blank there in the 2-0 League Cup final loss to the same opponents.

In the Community Shield last August United beat Arsenal on penalties but Van Nistelrooy saw his shootout effort spectacularly saved by Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann.

Millwall's defence is likely to be a little more yielding, however, and the signs for Dennis Wise and his underdogs are ominous.

Van Nistelrooy grabbed two goals in his final two premier league games of the season to suggest he is back in the groove at just the right time.

Next month Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat will look to him for goals in a difficult Euro 2004 group comprising Germany, the Czech Republic and Latvia.

Saturday therefore offers a timely opportunity to remind everyone of his ability.

Source:
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