I am not too sure about other clubs, but I know that wearing the number 7 jersey for Manchester United is considered an honour. Such an honour that United’s latest signing, Shinji Kagawa, turned down the opportunity to wear the historic number 7, saying he would like to “prove” himself before taking up the offer.
I admire, in no particular order, the following players that wore the prestigious number 7 jersey. I admire these players for their technical abilities. Some points may be controversial, but these players made a name for themselves and have written their name in Manchester United’s folklore.
1. George Best (Northern Ireland)
Best signed for United in 1961 as a youngster. He made is senior debut in 1963, scoring an impressive 179 goals in just 470 appearances. Best played for United for 11 years and quit surprisingly in 1974 at the age of 27.
In his later years, Best fell victim to alcoholism. He suffered for most of his adulthood with this, before passing away in 2005 at the subtle age of only 59.
2. Eric Cantona (France)
Ah, King Eric! He played a key role in the revival of Manchester United, winning 4 league titles in 5 years. He also won 2 League and 2 FA Cups. Cantona was voted as Manchester United’s greatest ever player by Inside United magazine. Cantona scored 64 goals in 143 appearances for the Red Devils.
As impressive as he was on the field, Eric Cantona was as controversial as ever. The incident that grabbed most attention came in 1995, when he assaulted a Crystal Palace fan on his way to the tunnel after being sent off for United for a kick at Palace defender, Richard Shaw.
3. David Beckham (England)
Beckham came through the ranks at United, signing on professionally in 1992 at the age of 17. He made a decent 265 appearances, scoring 62 goals for the Manchester club. This isn’t a bad record considering he was only a winger. During his time at United, he clinched 6 League titles, 2 FA Cups and 1 Champions League title. He was part of the treble-winning team in 1999.
Beckham holds the appearance record as an outfield player for the English national side – 115 caps.
After leaving United in 2003, he joined Real Madrid. Spending 4 seasons there, he won 1 La Liga title. He now resides with his wife and 4 children in Los Angeles, playing for LA Galaxy.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
In 2003, Ronaldo became United’s first ever Portuguese player. Funnily, he too did not want to wear the number 7 jersey and requested to wear number 28 (the number he wore at Sporting Lisbon, the club he was signed from). Sir Alex forced him to wear number 7, giving him that extra motivation to succeed as a footballer. Ronaldo scored 84 goals in 196 appearances.
The 2006-2007 season proved to his breakthrough season. It was from this season, until he left in 2009, that he scored the majority of his goals.
In 2009 he left United to join Real Madrid for a record-breaking £80 million. From here, his career truly flourished. Ronaldo broke many United fans’ hearts when he announced that would be leaving to join his “dream” club.
5. Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
Valencia signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2009. He may lack in technical ability, but has pace and immense strength whilst running with the ball. To date, Valencia has scored 10 goals in 71 appearances. He is most definitely a crowd favourite. He is appreciated for his energy levels produced and impressive work ethic.
During his time at United, he has been very consistent and personally, I believe he is worthy of wearing the legendary number 7!
Personally, I hope Valencia stays at Manchester United for many years to come and earns the right be called a “Man United Great.”
Other players that have worn the number 7 jersey: Bryan Robson, Michael Owen, Ralph Milne, Keith Gillespie, Ashley Grimes.