If you think your job is difficult, try being a Man United player! Now, while at it, try honoring the badge of the Red Devils while donning the number 7 jersey.
Having been baptized with the spirits of Billy Meredith, George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, the sanctity that comes with the iconic number is certainly justified. It was no fluke that one name was omitted above; the name Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.
Just as the cliché goes, “the best is always saved for the last”. Having joined the English club as a teenager from Sporting, the Madeira-born sensation rewrote history by making the revered number 7 his own.
He defied the laws of physics with mind-boggling goals, posed to be the nightmare of Premiership goalkeepers with his astute efficiency and made defenders surrender with his tricky feet and blistering pace.
Here is a throwback of CR7 doing the unthinkable against Porto in the UCL in 2009:
And then against Arsenal in the same season…
He was a real entertainer and, for that matter, he’s still spoken of in high regard by the fans of his former club even after securing his dream move to Real Madrid close to a decade ago. Well, can you blame them? Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Los Blancos undoubtedly left a huge chasm in the side.
With him clinching his first-ever Ballon d’Or the season prior to his last as a Red Devil, whoever was destined to fill his boots and, as a result, inherit the number 7 jersey had a difficult task ahead. The quest for a successor started with former Liverpool and Real Madrid player, Michael Owen.
The Englishman was handed the iconic jersey following Ronaldo’s exit in 2009. Having won the Ballon d’Or in 2001, expectations were high for the former Kopite to soothe the wail of the Old Trafford faithful while making the Portuguese winger a distant memory.
Irrespective of the fact that he won the 2010/11 Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson, Owen’s major highlight for most Manchester United fans will always be that last-minute goal against rivals City. With regards to his predecessor, he had nothing on him.
The search continued and the oracle fell on Ecuadorian international Antonio Valencia. The No.7 jersey was beautifully wrapped and rewarded to the now deputy captain of the club for claiming the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award after his exploits in the 2011-12 season.
After just a season, the player handed back the jersey as he asserted that he couldn’t handle the pressure that came with the number. The number was left unassigned in the 2013/2014 season and the arrival of Angel Di Maria the following season brought back a glimmer of hope in the search of Ronaldo’s heir post-Alex Ferguson’s era. Wrong!
The Argentine, after a rather askew season, left for Paris Saint-Germain as quickly as he arrived in Manchester. The heir-apparent was nearly realized in the young and prodigious Memphis Depay. With his development at PSV having been likened to the younger version of CR7, Man United fans had every right to celebrate his arrival.
Nonetheless, his frequent string of inconsistent and lethargic performances saw him facing the chop. The talented winger was shipped off to Lyon following the arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2016 after playing a season and a half with the 20-time English champions. Once again, the search continued…
Stats of Ronaldo vs the four players who wore the No.7 jersey after him
- Cristiano Ronaldo
Appearance in all competitions: 292
Goals in all competitions: 118
Appearances in the EPL: 196
Goals in the EPL: 84
- Michael Owen
Appearance in all competitions: 52
Goals in all competitions: 17
Appearances in the EPL: 31
Goals in the EPL: 5
- Antonio Valencia
Appearance in all competitions (wearing No.7): 40
Goals in all competitions: 1
Appearances in the EPL: 30
Goals in the EPL: 1
- Angel Di Maria
Appearance in all competitions: 32
Goals in all competitions: 4
Appearances in the EPL: 27
Goals in the EPL: 3
- Memphis Depay
Appearance in all competitions: 53
Goals in all competitions: 7
Appearance in the EPL: 33
Goals in the EPL: 2
However, the latest signing of Alexis Sanchez has given Manchester United fans the nostalgic feeling of the procurement of an actual successor for Cristiano Ronaldo. Joining the club is a dream come true for the Chilean winger who expressed his admiration for the Old Trafford side in his first interview.
“When they told me that Cristiano. Cantona, Beckham had all worn it, just thinking about that number seven sets you off dreaming in your head with ideas about lifting the Champions League trophy and winning the Premier League title.”
— Players Sayings (@PlayersSayings) January 22, 2018
“I always said as a kid that I’d like to play for United and I once spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson about it. We chatted for around 20 minutes and I told him that my dream was to come here to Manchester United,” he told MUTV.
“It really is a massive club, very powerful, and so now, when I got the opportunity to come here, I looked at the badge and my hairs just stood up on end because it’s a powerful club and the biggest in England.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 22, 2018
“When they told me that Cristiano, Eric Cantona, David Beckham had all worn it, just thinking about that number seven sets you off dreaming in your head with ideas about lifting the Champions League trophy and winning the Premier League title.”
Since moving from Barcelona to Arsenal in 2014, the Chilean winger has so far amassed 80 goals in 165 appearances across all competitions. His goal tally in the Premier League currently stands at 60 in 122 games. Could he actually be the ‘Messiah’ the Red Devils have been waiting for since Ronaldo’s departure? Time certainly has a story to tell!