As the new season draws near once again, there are still likely some incomings and outgoings at Old Trafford. The outbound group looks to soon be joined by one Angel Di Maria – he of the missed airplane to the USA and current holder of MUFC’s storied number seven shirt.
Every Red knows the incredible talents that have worn it – Best [though not always], Robson, Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo. But since the king of stopovers left in 2009, the shirt has been more of a burden than an icon. Harder to fill than the drummer’s stool in Spinal Tap.
First up was Michael Owen. As surprising as it was for the former Liverpool striker to turn out for United in the first place, it was more of a shock to see him handed the #7. He seemed to make a go of it during his first campaign, making 31 appearances and scoring 9. But the next two seasons were bad and worse, and Owen was gone after three years – limping out the back door on his way to Stoke City.
You’ll recall that a strange thing happened to start the 2012/13 season. As a reward for his great play during the previous year, one Antonio Valencia was offered the shirt by Sir Alex Ferguson. He accepted and went on to be a bit ordinary, handing the shirt back to the kitman and returning to his usual #25.
Seeing this, no one wanted the shirt during 2013/14. And supporters would start to wonder if the club would sign a player with the necessary pedigree to wear it again. Until late August, 2014 that is – when Ed Woodward would drop an absolute bombshell.
The club signed Argentine star Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid. Surely, this was the player we had been waiting for? Alas, no. Di Maria showed glimpses of a player worthy of the shirt – but then he absolutely bottled it, and is now almost certainly leaving.
What does this season hold for the #7? Your guess is as good as mine. It might go to Memphis Depay, or perhaps Louis van Gaal’s ‘surprise’ player. Let’s all just hope that whoever it is can bring some of the glory back to Manchester United’s most legendary number.