Van Nistelrooy returned to Old Trafford on Friday for the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson's statue. It ended a feud with the Manchester United boss that had rumbled on since 2006, when Ferguson turfed Van Nistelrooy out, believing the striker had become a negative influence in the dressing room. However, such treatment should not be allowed to obscure the staggering number of goals Van Nistelrooy scored for United. In five full seasons with the Red Devils, Van Nistelrooy scored an incredible 150 goals, including 44 in the 2002-03 Premier League title-winning season, a figure even Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to match. Although he has now slipped to 11th on the all-time United scoring charts, amongst the leading scorers only Tommy Taylor had a better goals per game ratio. Little wonder he is still regarded with such affection by the United faithful and the template for which any new striker is judged by. But Van Nistelrooy is not one of those who wants their achievements to last forever. And he would be delighted if Van Persie was the player to improve them.
"I hope he gets as many as me," said Van Nistelrooy.
"That would be a good thing. "I had my time. That has gone now and others have taken over.
"I really hope he does it."
And whilst it is early days, Van Persie is presently ahead of schedule. The former Arsenal man has 11 goals from his first 17 appearances, two fewer than it took Van Nistelrooy to reach the same figure, and that is despite a three-game barren streak, the longest of his United career so far, since his well-taken effort in Braga at the beginning of the month.
"Robin's style fits United so well," said Van Nistelrooy,
"the way he wants to play, the way he likes to play.
"He has been a great success and he will continue for a good while."
Though Ferguson has dismissed similarities over their playing style, there is one thing Van Nistelrooy and his former international team-mate have in common. The settling-in process at Old Trafford has taken no time. Van Nistelrooy already knew how keenly Ferguson wanted him at United by the manner in which he kept in touch when the forward's initial move from PSV Eindhoven was scrapped due to a knee injury. And this summer, once it became obvious Van Persie was serious about his desire to leave Arsenal, Ferguson made it clear he saw the 29-year-old as an essential member of his squad.
"It is amazing to have a start like Robin has done," said Van Nistelrooy. "It is like he has always played for the club.
"He didn't need any time to settle in. He was straight on his level, scoring important goals and winning games for the team.
"I spoke to him before. He feels very good at United.
"But that is the feeling you get when you come here. You feel part of something. You feel part of the family and of a tradition.
"I felt like that. It sounds crazy now I know more about the club but that is what the manager does.
"He makes you feel strong and gets the best out of people.
"You just want to go out and perform. Robin is doing that now."