The situation is depressingly familiar for Ruud van Nistelrooy. A lacklustre performance against Serbia & Montenegro has led to calls in the Netherlands for a younger and less experienced model to replace the Manchester United striker against Ivory Coast tonight but, unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, Marco van Basten is reluctant to dispense with his predator just yet.
Van Nistelrooy was axed by Ferguson for the final Premiership game of last season following a series of training ground disputes and tepid displays that will lead to his departure from Old Trafford this summer. Now the 29-year-old has been singled out for criticism back home after Sunday's otherwise impressive opening victory, with many arguing for the promotion of Feyenoord's prolific marksman Dirk Kuyt for the remaining games in the "Group of Death".
Van Basten, however, believes the striker's desperation to impress in his first appearance at the World Cup Finals, was the principal reason for his slow start and is unlikely to yield to the pressure to change in Stuttgart. "He wanted to prove himself and perhaps he was too eager, but I have no reason to replace him."
Familiarity will not be confined to Van Nistelrooy's predicament this evening when several players will find themselves in opposition with club colleagues - Emmanuel Eboué, Kolo Touré and Robin van Persie of Arsenal, Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba of Chelsea. Drogba suffered an ankle injury in his country's defeat by Argentina but is expected to play, although Bonaventure Kalou is likely to be replaced by the fit-again Aruna Dindane.Reuse content