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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Ruud blames 'painful' Man Utd exit on Ferguson

Ruud van Nistelrooy believes the breakdown of his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson prompted his exit from Manchester United.

The Holland striker, 30, joined Real Madrid on Friday after five years at Old Trafford in which he became the club's greatest European goalscorer.

And he admitted his exit had been 'painful'.

'The relationship with the manager had ended and this was painful for me because I owe him a lot,' said Van Nistelrooy, whose move to United from PSV Eindhoven was delayed for 12 months in 2000 when he suffered a serious injury.

'He waited for me during my injury and allowed me to play at the highest level.

'I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to the manager yesterday because when I left the training ground in Manchester yesterday afternoon the deal had not yet been completed but I'm sure I'll meet him again.'

The striker was quick to thank the United fans and club for their support during the previous five years.

'My affection for the fans and club is total. Manchester United will always be a part of me,' said the striker.

Van Nistelrooy was presented to the Real fans only moments after signing his three-year contract with the club after a whirlwind 24 hours which had seen him take part in both of United's two training sessions on Friday.

But the 30-year-old was clearly relishing the challenge and was looking forward to the chance of being reunited with his former United team-mate David Beckham.

'It will be great to play with David again,' said Van Nistelrooy.

'I4ve really missed him because he's both a wonderful person and a great player'

Van Nistelrooy is a key element in the plans of Ramon Calderon, the new Real Madrid president, to create a competitive team following the club's three-year period without silverware.

'Van Nistelrooy was a key target for us during the election campaign. He's an important player, with great presence in a team, and scores lots of goals,' said Real's new manager, Fabio Capello.

But - with a squad including the likes of Ronaldo, Raul, Antonio Cassano and Robinho - Van Nistelrooy does not necessarily have a guaranteed place in the starting line-up.

'Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy may be able to play together, but we'll have to see if that works. We'll have to decide but it depends on a lot of things,' stated the Italian coach.

And competition for a place in the new Real Madrid team may yet become tougher if the president's election promise to bring in AC Milan star Kaka becomes a reality.

As the Dutchman completed his brief sortie on to the Bernabeu pitch to meet the two thousand fans which had gathered to greet him, a chorus of chants of 'where is Kaka' erupted from the stands.

Asked about the incident at the press conference, the striker was unfazed, saying: 'Any team or player would welcome a player like Kaka.'

The Dutchman described coming to Real Madrid as a 'dream come true' but the striker and his team-mates will clearly need to perform at the highest level if they are to overcome the current Primera Liga and European champions, Barcelona, and avoid the dream turning into another nightmare for Real fans.