Bengaluru, Aug 30: Manchester United have had a history of great players donning the Red jersey. From Sir Bobby Charlton, Mark Hughes, and Wayne Rooney just to name a few. However, none of those players wore the No. 7 shirt.
Ever since the 1960s, starting with George Best the fabled jersey started putting extra weight in it, signifying that any player handed it is immediately expected to be the Old Trafford outfits attacking icon.
From Eric Cantona who started Premier League revolution under Sir Alex Ferguson to Cristiano Ronaldo who took it to the utmost glory, the iconic jersey has seen enough of talents. However, since the Portuguese superstar's exclusion, a number of players have tried and failed to live up to very high expectations. Since 2010, five players have worn No.7 and scored just 13 Premier League goals between them in nine years.
Alexis Sanchez is the latest name in the long list of failures, who just after one and a half year departs to Inter on a season-long loan.
Here we look at all the number 7 of Manchester United who has worn the jersey in PL era and how they have fared with it:
The Flagbearer of the iconic jersey, the French was the most significant arrival in Manchester United's glorious history. Cantona joined Manchester United from Leeds in 1992, after they had finished 17th of 22 in the newly formed Premier League. Up to that point of the season, United were having a hard time scoring. But Cantona not only scored goals but allowed space for others to score as well, helping the club lifting their first league title in 26 years. Over the next four seasons, he also helped the club to three more league titles and two FA Cups, winning the PFA Player’s Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards during that time. He left the club in 1997, later being voted as the Premier League’s Overseas Player of the Decade.
Following Cantona's departure, a budding English talent from the academy was handed the sublime jersey and truely he standout under every pressure to make the jersey more iconic to the world of football. The Englishman his jersey to the famous number in the 1997/98 season – before that he wore the No. 10. In eight seasons as a first-team regular, Beckham won six Premier League titles, including being part of the incredible treble-winning side of 1999.
Beckham's departure saw United splashing the cash for an 18-year-old Portuguese prodigy who later went on to become one of World football's most iconic names if not the best. With United, Ronaldo won every piece of silverware possible—the FA Cup in 2004, the League Cup in 2006, the Community Shield in 2007, the Premiership in 2007 and 2008, and the Champions League in 2008. He also was awarded numerous individual awards, including the PFA Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 2008. In terms of performance and talents, he was arguably the best number 7 since Best to don the jersey.
Since Ronaldo's departure, Ferguson tried to provide the iconic jersey to some popular names and some budding talents but none of them came close to replicating any of the above talents. Owen made a controversial move to United in 2009 and was handed the jersey by the Scott. He was considered amongst the world’s finest forwards during his spells at Liverpool and Real Madrid which also led him winning the Ballon d’Or in 2001.
But injuries hampered his progress and his best days were truely behind him when he signed for the Red Devils. In three seasons Owen never able to establish himself as a regular in Ferguson’s side. But he scored one of the iconic goals against Manchester City and later won the only Premier League title in 2011, before leaving for Stoke after scoring 17 goals in 52 appearances for the club.
Signed in the summer of 2009 from Wigan Valencia initially wore the number 25 but after being named as the club’s Player of the Year in 2011/12 he was given the famous jersey after Owen's departure. But donning the shirt saw him registering one of the worst seasons in his career, scoring just one goal. And the following season he decided to abandon the shirt and reverting back to number 25.
Angel Di Maria
Argentine was the first big marquee signing since Ferguson's departure and expectations were almost sky-high from him that the winger could help transform United’s fortunes following their struggles. He started brightly in the Premier League, starring in the opening weeks of the new season but his form soon drastically dipped. And later a fall out with Van Gaal saw the Red Devils offloading the record £57 million signing to PSG after just one season in the Premier League.
After Di Maria's exit, Van Gaal put faith on budding younger talent and the Dutch winger arrived with a high reputation after helping PSV Eindhoven to the Eredivisie title in 2015, finishing as the division’s top scorer with 22 goals. In early season, he showed promise by scoring in all the first three Champions League games. But he too soon started to struggle. He scored just two Premier League goals in his first season at the club and his game time became limited after the arrival of Jose Mourinho next season. Just four league appearances next season was sold to French side Lyon for an initial £16m in January 2017.
Sanchez' time at the club has been evenly frustrating as the previous No.7s and the Chilean has only scored three league goals, with them coming against struggling teams in Huddersfield, Swansea and Newcastle. United had beaten rivals City to his signature, offering Sanchez a Premier League record contract worth a reported £500,000-a-week. But the move has proven nothing short of a disaster and now it has ended temporarily after his loan departure to Inter.