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The curse of Man Utd’s number 7 shirt

It’s the most famous and iconic shirt in Manchester United’s history, but is the famous number 7 shirt cursed.

George Best, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo. Just some of the names to wear the famous red jersey with the club’s most iconic number on its back, but in recent years, it’s has been dogged by nothing but flops.

In fact, since Ronaldo left the club in 2009 to become the world’s most expensive footballer of all time, five players have been Man Utd’s number 7, and not a single one have excelled. Let’s take a look at the flops:

Michael Owen (2009-2012)

After Ronaldo vacated, it was always going to be tough to replace him, and while Antonio Valencia was bought from Wigan to fill his place in the side, it was Michael Owen, a free signing from Newcastle who got his shirt number.

While Michael Owen’s quotes and drab commentary may be what he is famous for these days, the former Liverpool striker is still actually the longest serving and most successful owner of the number 7 shirt since Ronaldo’s departure. He also scored one of the most iconic goals in one of the best Manchester derbies of all time. Everything is relative though and he is little more than a footnote in the number 7 shirt’s prestigious history.

Time in number 7 shirt: 3 years
Appearances: 52
Goals: 17

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Antonio Valencia (2012/13)

Having been brought in to replace Ronaldo in 2009, the Ecuador international enjoyed a terrific campaign in the 2011/12 season, winning the clubs player of the season award.

That summer, following the departure of Michael Owen, Sir Alex Ferguson gave Valencia the chance to shine in the number 7 shirt, but he crumbled under the weight of its heritage, and after just one season, decided to revert back to his original number 25.

Interestingly, back in his original squad number, he returned to form where he has since been converted to a right-back. He still of course plays for United and is one of the longest serving members of the squad.

Time in number 7 shirt: 1 year
Appearances: 40
Goals: 1

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Angel di Maria (2014/15)

The number 7 shirt remained vacant for the 2013/14 season under David Moyes, but Louis van Gaal’s arrival in 2014 saw him sign Angel di Maria for a club record fee of £59.7 million.

He was handed the number 7 shirt and seemed like the perfect player to finally take responsibility for replacing Ronaldo. However, despite an exciting start to the season, he was quickly ‘van Gaal-ified’, with the Dutchman seemingly sucking all the attacking intent out of everyone.

A burglary at the Argentines’ home saw him totally lose interest in the Premier League, and he was sold the following summer. A total disappointment.

Interestingly, he has gone on to return to form at his new club PSG.

Time in number 7 shirt: 1 year
Appearances: 32
Goals: 4

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Memphis Depay (2015-2016)

Having seen a ‘galactico’ style signing flop under the number 7’s weight of expectation, United went back to basics and gave their historic shirt to a promising player who, on paper at least, was similar to Ronaldo. Memphis Depay.

The Dutchman had similar attributes to Ronaldo, pacey, powerful, an eye for goal, as well as absolute confidence in his own ability. However, despite scoring a few crackers for United, he rarely performed to any great standard.

Jose Mourinho’s arrival in 2016 saw him offered a chance for redemption, but he continued his poor form, and was quickly sold to Lyon, and like Di Maria before him, he has seemingly returned to form in the French League.

Time in number 7 shirt: 1 year
Appearances: 53
Goals: 7

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Alexis Sanchez (2018)

Its far too early to tell if Alexis Sanchez can be considered a flop or is the latest victim of a seemingly cursed shirt.

However, it’s not been a good start to life at Old Trafford for the Chilean, who has come in for plenty of criticism from fans and pundits alike.

The performances we’ve seen from Man Utd’s Alexis Sanchez are far from the performances of the Alexis Sanchez we saw at Arsenal. He is still settling in of course, and Jose Mourinho is still trying to figure out how to fit all of his pieces of his expensively assembled puzzle together. However, if he can’t get back to form, it only strengthens the questions about a potential curse.

Time in number 7 shirt: 2 months.
Appearances: 10
Goals: 1

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