Manchester United

Every Man Utd player to wear the number 7 shirt after Cristiano Ronaldo left

Adam Aladay
Cristiano Ronaldo has taken back his old Man Utd 7 shirt
Cristiano Ronaldo has taken back his old Man Utd 7 shirt / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United have welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club and have given the returning Old Trafford hero his iconic number seven shirt back.

Ronaldo is one of several United legends to have immortalised the number seven shirt over the last few decades, alongside George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

But after the Portuguese left it almost appeared ‘cursed’ as a string of players failed to do it justice or live up to its legendary status.

Ronaldo now takes it back, but these are all the players to have worn the number seven shirt for United since he last pulled it on wat back in 2009...

1. Michael Owen

Michael Owen
Owen was the first United player to wear 7 after Ronaldo / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Sir Alex Ferguson lost both Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in the summer of 2009 and, as a result, he was on the lookout for a new striker to add depth up front.

Ferguson turned to former Liverpool star Michael Owen, who joined on a free transfer after departing Newcastle. Considering the void left by Ronaldo, fans were desperate for a star player - perhaps in their peak years - to come in and take over the shirt.

But instead, an ageing Owen was a player still continuing to struggle with injuries, In total, he scored 17 goals in 52 appearances for the club, although he did start only 18 games.

Despite him being nothing more than a squad player when fit, Owen did provide fans with a few moments that will long in the memory, notably his last-gap winner in the Manchester derby.

Oh, and the move benefited him as well as he was finally able to get his hands on a Premier League winners medal. Owen's remarks after winning the title were blunt, but very true: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

2. Antonio Valencia

Valencia only wore the number seven shirt for one season
Valencia only wore the number seven shirt for one season / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Antonio Valencia arrived at Old Trafford during the same summer as Owen, with Ferguson actually offering the player the seven shirt before turning to the Englishman. However, Valencia opted for 25 instead.

The former Wigan winger wasn't the most glamorous footballer, nor was he the most lethal in front of goal. But it was his work ethic that made him such a fan favourite. Valencia was Mr Consistent, the player Ferguson could always rely on in every game.

After an excellent 2011/12 season, Valencia was named the club's player of the year and was handed the prestigious seven shirt. However, he would only hold onto it for one year before returning to number 25.

Valencia insisted that it was a matter of feeling more comfortable with 25 on his back. During his time wearing number seven, the Ecuadorian only managed one goal - although he did also struggle with injuries.

In total, Valencia made 339 appearances for the Red Devils before departing in the summer of 2019, scoring 25 times and providing 62 assists during a ten-year stay.

3. Angel Di Maria

Di Maria didn't last long at Man Utd
Di Maria didn't last long at Man Utd / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Angel Di Maria's transfer to United is a prime example of where the club failed in the years immediately after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The Argentine never looked like he wanted to be there, unsettled and uninterested.

It was a case of wanting to make a 'statement' signing in order to show that the Red Devils still meant business. But the problem, however, was that the money was doing the talking - rather than the player's eagerness to join or his desire to be part of the footballing project.

There was plenty of excitement as he shone in the first few weeks, but his form quickly dipped...drastically.

Despite waxing lyrical about having the chance to wear United's number seven at the time, Di Maria recently claimed he 'didn't give a f***' about it.

4. Memphis Depay

There was plenty of excitement about Memphis
There was plenty of excitement about Memphis / Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Perhaps it was a case of too much, too young for Memphis at United. Following the departure of Di Maria, the Dutchman inherited the seven shirt in the hope he would don the jersey for years to come.

With skill, pace, creativity and a real eye for goal, Memphis had all the attributes to succeed at United and it seemed as though they had made an excellent signing.

But whether it was a case of mental strength or the team's overall inconsistency not allowing him the chance to showcase his talents regularly, the former PSV Eindhoven talent struggled to make much of an impact.

His talent was clear for all to see, with fans witnessing his moments of supreme quality. But it was all far too irregular, with the forward also often disappearing for large parts of games.

After resurrecting his career with Lyon, Memphis is now with Barcelona.

5. Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez
Man Utd went big to sign Sanchez in 2018 / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Alexis Sanchez at United: Cost the club around £28,800 for each touch of the ball he made, £19.8m for every Premier League goal and £40m in total wages.

United gazumped Manchester City to sign the Chilean from Arsenal, sending Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the opposite direction. But the size of the deal shattered the club's wage structure and caused far more damage than simply his failure to produce his Arsenal form.

Sure, you can look at the stats - five goals in 45 games - to see just how poor he was for United, but the problems were so much worse. He never fit in and never really looked part of the squad. This had a major impact on the pitch as he gave the ball away time after time and struggled to gain any real understanding of his teammates' games.

United offloaded him to Inter on loan for the 2019/20 season. That deal was made permanent at the end of the campaign, although the Red Devils still ended up paying him off to get rid of his contract.

6. Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani
Cavani is the only success in the 7 shirt since Ronaldo / Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images

It was down to Edinson Cavani to finally break the ‘curse’ of the United number seven shirt after his arrival as a free agent in October 2020.

Despite scoring 300 club goals over the previous 10 years, there were big doubts about the veteran Uruguayan when his deal was announced. He hadn’t played for six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, while fitness concerns had started to limit his game time.

But Cavani eventually silenced the critics and became a cult hero at Old Trafford. His movement was revered and his mentor-type relationship with Mason Greenwood appeared to bring the best out of the home-grown youngster.

United convinced Cavani to stay for another season after netting 17 times in all competitions, although he will now wear 21 instead after ceding his number seven shirt to Ronaldo.


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