Paul Scholes has recalled the ‘wow’ moment he had while watching one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s marquee summer signings train for the first time.
Having progressed through Manchester United’s academy as part of the famous Class of 92, former Old Trafford favourite Scholes has played with some of the best players in the club’s history.
They include fellow graduates such as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, while Sir Alex complemented that golden generation with some equally eye-catching acquisitions – both from home and abroad.
Indeed, the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo – among countless others – rubbed shoulders with Scholes during a historic one-club career that saw him win 11 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.
But which team-mate was it that made him stand up in awe on day one at United’s Carrington training ground?
During his guest appearance on the Robbie Fowler podcast, Scholes said: “This man might be a surprise, but it was Ruud van Nistelrooy.
“We didn’t really see a lot of Dutch football in those days. I hadn’t really seen him. I’d heard of him, obviously.
“We had apparently signed him and then he got that bad injury, so he was out for a year, or whatever it was, nine months. He had to play a little bit before we signed him. Was it £20million or something like that?
“I remember seeing him in training the first day and I thought, ‘wow’. It was just a little finishing session and he was ruthless. He just scored from anywhere.”
Scholes, who discussed a wide range of subjects during the hour-long podcast, added: “I know he didn’t score a lot of goals from out the box, but once you give him a chance.
“It wasn’t just a little place in the corner like Robbie (Fowler) used to do, it wasn’t a side-footer or a chip or a dink. He used to absolutely smash it, I mean smash it and give the goalkeeper absolutely no chance.”
Having initially been set to join United from Dutch Eredivisie side PSV in 2000, van Nistelrooy suffered a serious knee injury that summer, before eventually signing for £18.5million the following year.
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He went on to score 95 goals in the Premier League, in just 150 appearances, before leaving for Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2006.
Scholes continued: “I had a really good partnership with Ruud. I felt like I knew what he wanted and he knew what I wanted. I think I played number 10 for a year with him and scored the most goals I did in a season.
“I loved playing with Ruud. I thought he was brilliant. He lived for scoring goals.”