Hit man: Ruud van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals for Manchester United
Ruud van Nistelrooy believes his own brutal departure from Manchester United underlines why Sir Alex Ferguson has spent so long at the top.
Van Nistelrooy scored an incredible 150 goals in five seasons with the Old Trafford outfit from 2001.
It is a record that rightly places him amongst the greatest strikers in United's history. Even Cristiano Ronaldo was unable to match the 44 goals Van Nistelrooy scored in United's 2002-03 Premier League title-winning season.
Yet that staggering return counted for nothing when Ferguson decided Van Nistelrooy had outlived his usefulness.
As the summer of 2006 approached, Ferguson decided to pick Giuseppe Rossi ahead of Van Nistelrooy for the final game of the season against Charlton.
The Dutchman drove away from Old Trafford in disgust and - until Friday's unveiling of a Ferguson statue - had not been back since.
'When he is building new teams he is willing to do things like that,' said Van Nistelrooy.
'That is all credit to him. In his mind, the club is the most important thing.
'That is what he always said. It is his most-repeated sentence.'
At the time, Van Nistelrooy was incredulous, as were many fans.
Yet United came back to win three successive Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph in 2008, in a period when they never did worse than a semi-final.
'What he did was fair enough,' said Van Nistelrooy.
'I didn't find it hard to deal with. I accepted it.
'I moved on to Madrid and had four great years there. He moved the club further onwards.
'My overall feeling about United is that I had a great five years there and I wanted to come back today to pay respect to the manager because I am very grateful for the chance he gave me.
'Of course, we had our things with the way it ended but he is man who gets the best out of people. He did that with me as well.'
Possibly the true nature of Ferguson's achievements are not fully appreciated without going through the number of stellar careers he has nurtured.
Van Nistelrooy, Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were all present today. Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham sent messages by video.
Roy Keane was amongst the most notable absentees but even if the Irishman's relationship with his one-time manager has been fractured beyond repair by his outspoken criticisms of United's Champions League elimination 12 months ago - and Ferguson's reaction to them - even he would surely admit the Scot had a positive influence on his career.
'It is incredible how many careers he has touched,' said Van Nistelrooy.
'Twenty-six seasons is difficult to get your head round.
'Ten years is an awful long time for a manager to be at a club in football but Sir Alex is going on and on.
'He has a very strong desire to give his best every single day.
'That is what he does. He puts everything he has in and here we are.
'In three or four years we will be talking 30 years. It is out of this world.
'But he is doing it. As he said, he has outlived death. He is outliving everyone.'