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"Van Nistelrooy versus Henry" by Dan O'Brien
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Van Nistelrooy versus Henry

The two best strikers in the English Premier League are Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry. That is the viewed shared by many, however some other pundits, journalists, and soccer lovers may have different opinions as to who are the top in England. The backgrounds and abilities of the two have enabled them to shine on the world stage, and who knows the limits to what they can achieve. I will be looking at them both, to come to a conclusion as to who is the best striker, however hard it may be.

The arrivals
When van Nistelrooy joined from PSV, the £19m switch to Manchester was considered by many to be a somewhat risky deal on the part of Sir Alex; however the United faithful trusted him and knew better than the sceptics. Previous transfers had seemed initially ambiguous, including the hefty price tag of £10m for fellow Dutchman, the huge Jaap Stam. This later resulted in the towering Eindhoven centre back becoming the most valuable asset in a watertight backline for United's dominance of country and continent in 1999. It was a similar situation with Ruud. The 25 year old, previously untried and untested on the Premiership and top class European scene, was flown in to the North West to become the most expensive player in the club's history.

Securing the signature of Arsenal's next hero in the making proved to be shrewd business by Monsieur Wenger. The exit of troublesome teen Nicolas Anelka paved the way for a new star to be born at Highbury. The £11.5m capture of an exciting French winger from Serie A giants Juventus boosted Wenger's side to put forward the strongest and most dangerous threat to Manchester United's ever conquering side of the 1990's. Enter Thierry Henry. Described as 'vibrant, exciting, and with raw pace,' by fellow French World Cup winner Didier Deschamps, Arsene Wenger gave Henry an important message to revitalise Henry's career: I want you to be a striker.

The impacts
There is no doubting just how influential these two characters have been since their arrivals. Both had tremendous impacts, van Nistelrooy notching 36 compared to Henry's 26 goals in their first seasons with their English clubs.

Van Nistelrooy's number 10 shirt has now become one of, if not the most feared sights for European defenders. Ruud's sheer physical presence would be enough to give him an advantage over many, were it not for his eye for goal and shot accuracy of a Japanese sniper. His season for Manchester United was summed up by his spectacular goal at home to Fulham in March, a stunning individual effort, leaving his Manchester United fans screaming with delight, the opposition's defence left in awe, and Sylvain Legwinski with a sore eye, wishing he hadn't tried to outmuscle the powerful striker . Ruud's revitalised career has blossomed magnificently since joining Ferguson's red and white army. It is a stark contrast to 2 years ago at the Eindhoven training camp, when the snap of Ruud's cruciate ligaments reverberated all the way to Manchester, and his dreams of his top flight move seemed to have diminished. Sir Alex kept the faith, and once signed Van Nistelrooy did not hesitate to begin repaying every single last English penny invested in him. Admirers of Ruud's game include ex-Manchester United player Sir Bobby Charlton, who claims when Ruud has been at his best, even the best defenders in the world have 'not been able to stop him.'

Henry is a man feared also by many centre backs throughout Europe, despite being a different style of striker. The blistering pace and 'va va voom,' adds a new dimension to the Gunners' style of play, and proved to be an integral part of the side that captured the Premier League title in 2002. One can just ask Fabio Capello about the quality of Thierry, and his side was swept aside in the Stade Olympico by a stunning hat-trick from the Arsenal striker. It is performances such as that, which surely cause Manchester United scout Martin Ferguson to wonder why he passed up the chance to recommend the talented teenager many years ago, and the importance of Thierry to the Gunners was proved when Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood recently stated he would not accept a staggering £70million (€101m) bid for his prize possession. With many sides to his game, what exactly is it that has helped him to become the player he is? Could it be his arrogance, his pace, his dribbling technique, or could it be…je ne sais quoi?


Thierry Henry 9/10, however the winner is...

Ruud Van Nistelrooy - The Dutchman is quite simply, the best in the world. He broke the Premiership record for scoring in consecutive league games, scoring eight goals, as well as becoming the top UEFA Champions League striker, notching an impressive 12 goals. He fell 2 short of Dennis Law's Manchester United record of 46 goals in a season, and proves himself as one of the greatest strikers in the club's history. He has pace, power, top class finishing ability, and is deadly from the spot, earning himself a rating of 9.5/10

Questions, comments, and criticisms can be sent to the author Dan O'Brien by clicking here.