Why does Andre Onana wear the 24 shirt?

  • Manchester United have signed their replacement for David de Gea
  • A particularly poor season at Ajax led to Onana sticking with No. 24
  • Full shirt history of former Inter goalkeeper
Andre Onana was superb for Inter in 2022/23
Andre Onana was superb for Inter in 2022/23 / Francesco Scaccianoce/GettyImages

Manchester United have signed Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana as David de Gea's Old Trafford successor and you'll be hard-pressed to find a transfer greeted with such universal acclaim by a fanbase.

The Cameroonian goalkeeper arrives from Inter for a fee of around £47.2m which could rise beyond £50m with add-ons. Having worked with current boss Erik ten Hag before at Ajax, the hope is Onana will be the number one at United for many years to come.

De Gea left the Red Devils upon the expiry of his contract, while Dean Henderson is in talks with Nottingham Forest over a permanent move. That left only Tom Heaton as a senior goalkeeper before Onana's arrival, while Matej Kovar spent the 2022/23 season at Sparta Prague.

Almost everything about the transfer makes sense, but many fans may not know why Onana has taken the number 24 at Man Utd rather than inherit De Gea's number one shirt.

Andre Onana shirt number history


Shirt numbers worn

Manchester United





1, 24

Ajax Under-21s


Barcelona Under-19s



1, 16, 23, 24

Cameroon Under-20s


Why does Andre Onana wear the #24 shirt?

An unusual shirt number choice can often be related to some kind of personal tragedy or superstition. A previous example at Manchester United was Donny van de Beek choosing the number 34 shirt when he joined from Ajax, an unusually high number for a first-team player.

This choice was made as a tribute to former Ajax midfielder Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed in 2017 during a friendly and saw his playing career come to an extremely premature end.

He was left with brain damage and in a vegetative state, but Nouri did awake from his coma in March 2020. He wore number 34 and many former Ajax players have gone on to request the same number at their next clubs.

Onana's affinity with the number 24 comes from quite a different scenario. Jasper Cillessen had the one shirt at Ajax when Onana arrived so he chose 24 as he was born on April 2, 2/4. He did then claim the number one shirt when Cillessen went to Barcelona but the 2017/18 season was not a good one for Onana with that number.

Andre Onana
Onana sporting his #24 at Inter / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Ajax came second in the Eredivisie and didn't get out of the qualifying rounds for the Champions League or the Europa League. Onana conceded more goals than the season before in fewer games. He also dropped from 21 clean sheets to 12.

Onana switched back to 24 for the 2018/19 season and managed 26 clean sheets, including four in the Champions League. Led by Erik ten Hag, Ajax won a league and cup double and reached the Champions League semi-finals. They were seconds from the final before Tottenham's late winner from Lucas Moura.

Onana stuck with the number 24 shirt when he moved to Inter and while the Nerazzurri may have expected more from their Serie A campaign, Onana had an extremely successful time between the sticks and it soon became clear Inter could not hold onto him.

There is no opposition at United when it comes to Onana taking the number 24 shirt, given the last player to have it was Timothy Fosu-Mensah. He moved to Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021 and it has remained vacant ever since.

Some big names have worn it in the Premier League for United in the past, such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Darren Fletcher.