Man Utd’s Worst Number Sevens In Recent History
Angel di Maria is the latest in a long list of supremely gifted players to adorn Manchester United’s number seven shirt.
His predecessors read like a who’s who of United legends – George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, to name but a few.
However, not every player who’s been bestowed with the iconic jersey is fondly remembered by the United faithful. Here’s a look at some of the more unsuccessful ones:
Since the allocation of squad numbers in 1993, di Maria is only the sixth player to don the famous shirt number. The first three – Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo – were a hard act to follow, and so it proved for Michael Owen.
The former Liverpool striker was never going to be loved at Old Trafford and was well past his world-class best by the time he signed for United on a pay-as-you-play deal. Typically, his time at the club was hampered by injuries and he was limited to five goals from 31 appearances during his three seasons at United.
He’ll never enter the pantheon of great number sevens but will be best remembered by United fans for his 96th minute winner in a dramatic Manchester derby.
Perhaps one of United’s major problems last season was that they had no illustrious playmaker adorning the number seven in midfield. Indeed, they’d no-one at all wearing it. Such was the burden of the numeral for Antonio Valencia that he had asked to return to the more humble number 25.
The Ecuadorian inherited the shirt after Owen’s departure but struggled with the weight of expectancy that went along with it. He had just enjoyed his best season at Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson felt the new number was just reward for United’s 2011/12 Player of the Year.
However, he enjoyed an indifferent follow-up campaign wearing the celebrated number and his switch back to his previous squad number left the famous seven vacant for David Moyes’ ill-fated tenure.
There’s no doubting that Robson, United’s Captain Marvel throughout the 80s and early 90s, was a worthy successor to the likes of Best in the number seven shirt. However, his career was blighted by a series of injuries, which meant several less talented players were drafted in to fill his boots and number seven jersey.
Probably the least successful of these was the Scottish winger Ralph Milne, a surprise £150,000 signing from Third Division Bristol City. However, United fans never warmed to his limited abilities.
Milne suffered from off-field problems and was regarded by Ferguson as his worst ever signing, a title even more damning when you consider some of his transfer activity in his final few seasons at the club.
Grimes probably wore the number twelve substitute’s jersey more often than the number seven, such was his standing at United during his six years at the club. His versatility meant he found it hard to hold down a first-team place, and was limited to 90 appearances with the Red Devils.
However, many of these were adorning the number seven shirt and, while he did an admirable job in midfield and at left-back, he was never going to usurp the likes of Robson or Steve Coppell in the long-term from the famous shirt number.