‘I don’t live in the past at all’
In seven duels as a soccer player, Ruud van Nistelrooij never lost to Ajax with PSV. And the former striker also won his first two duels as coach of the Amsterdam rival. But those statistics say absolutely nothing, he believes.
“That doesn’t matter, it has absolutely no influence on Sunday,” Van Nistelrooij said at his press conference before Sunday’s topper. “I only focus on performing to the max in the upcoming match. Because that can make the difference.”
But PSV’s players need not count on anecdotes from the coach ahead of the cracker. Not a word about the 4-0 victory in February 2000 with three goals by Van Nistelrooij. And the earlier victories this season (5-3 in the Johan Cruijff Schaal and 2-1 in the premier league) remain unsaid as well.
“Really, I don’t live in the past, not at all even,” the PSV coach spoke. “They are fun facts for the media to fill the preview with. I get that, and you should do that too. But I have absolutely nothing to gain from it on Sunday.”
“How do we stand defensively? How do we handle the duels? What can we do offensively? Those are questions I’m working on now in the preparation.”
Dealing with tension
Is there nothing at all that Van Nistelrooij brings with his wealth of experience to the topper, which could be crucial in the battle for second place and thus a spot in the preliminary round of the Champions League? Still. The experience of what it is like to play a topper, with the tension, emotions and sentiments that come with it.
“I know what those players are going to feel, at games like this. You want to share that piece of your player career. How you deal with that, how you have to deal with that with each other,” Van Nistelrooij said.
Van Nistelrooij never lost to Ajax, but doesn’t deal with it
PSV and Ajax both seem hopeless in the title race. Feyenoord is eight points ahead. Both teams are on a nice run, though. PSV has not lost at home since late January. Since then it has won eleven and drawn three times. Van Nistelrooij announced that he will also wear his ‘lucky hat’ on Sunday, which he has been wearing the last few games.
Ajax, under coach John Heitinga, has won 12 of its last 14 duels at home. Only the premier league topper with Feyenoord was lost. The Amsterdammers do miss Edson Álvarez on Sunday, after his yellow card against FC Emmen.
“That’s a very good player though, both at the back and in midfield,” Van Nistelrooij believes. “And also mentality and character he is top. But Ajax of course has several good players.”
Van Nistelrooij on missing Alvarez: ‘Ajax has several good players’
It offers PSV the chance to play the long ball to Luuk de Jong, playing out from under Ajax’s early pressure. A tried-and-true recipe from the past. “We certainly look at where we see opportunities compared to the opponent,” Van Nistelrooij maintained. “We would have done the same if Álvarez had played.”
Lamme against the blind
Next week Ajax and PSV will play each other again, this time in the cup final. For both clubs, the disappointing season can more or less be rescued in the dual.
That the confrontation has been dubbed here and there as “the lame against the blind,” Van Nistelrooij leaves that cold. “That doesn’t matter to me. But it’s nice to read a headline like that. Delicious. I understand that’s how it works in the media. But I myself don’t read those pieces.”
Because Van Nistelrooij only focuses on one thing, he bent again: “How can I make my team better?”