In a club littered with history and tradition, the number seven jersey at Manchester United is perhaps one of the most iconic symbols in football.
Having been donned by such stars as George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and more, it’s become a token of prestige for those brave enough to embrace the responsibilities that come with it.
As of late, however, players who have worn the shirt have not lived up to the high standards of their predecessors.
Arguably the last Manchester United number seven remembered fondly by fans as a talent worthy of the jersey is Cristiano Ronaldo.
In fact, you could argue that Cristiano has gone on to achieve even greater things since leaving Fergie and United – something few players have managed.
Here’s a list of all of Manchester United’s number sevens since Cristiano Ronaldo and where they are now:
Sacrilege, I know, but England striker Michael Owen was one of the few players brave enough to represent both Liverpool and Manchester United at domestic level.
Owen left Merseyside to pursue the bright lights of La Liga at Real Madrid, joining fellow countryman and United alumni David Beckham.
The 39-year-old then returned to England to play for Newcastle United before moving to Old Trafford in July 2009.
The former Liverpool man started six games and made a further 25 appearances from the bench in the Premier League during his time at the club. However, he only managed five goals.
Owen then finished his playing career at Stoke City, before officially retiring in 2013. He now infamously plies his trade as a pundit for BT Sport.
However, one thing Owen can pride himself on for his time at United is the fact it saw him earn his only Premier League winners’ medal.
Despite joining United in the summer of 2009, Antonio Valencia wasn’t given the number seven shirt until the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
However, he soon found the responsibilities that came with it made him uncomfortable, eventually changing back to his favoured number 25.
Featuring on the right-wing – then as an attacker – Valencia’s playing style of a more ‘traditional winger’ could be considered a dying breed in the modern age.
Typically, the wide-men of today are deployed more as an additional goal-scoring threat, instead of the pacey outlets known to lump crosses into the box. Just see Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah and co. as perfect examples of a modern inverted winger.
Valencia’s United career was somewhat revived when defensive struggles caused then-manager Louis van Gaal to play him at right-back.
It was the following season – Jose Mourinho’s first in charge – that saw Valencia shine again through dominant displays as a key component of the Red Devils’ back line. Fans argued for him to be awarded the club’s player of the year and was awarded captaincy for United the following season.
Today, however, it looks as though the Ecuadorian’s time at Old Trafford is up. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made Ashley Young his go-to choice at right-back, and with Portuguese youngster Diogo Dalot rising through the ranks, there seems to be no room for the 33-year-old.
With his contract expiring in the summer, United opted to not extend his deal, resulting in the imminent departure of one of the side’s current longest-serving players.
ANGEL DI MARIA
Oh, what could have been. Angel Di Maria became Manchester United’s record signing when he arrived at the club for £59m in the summer of 2014.
The emergence of Isco in midfield, along with Gareth Bale occupying Real Madrid’s right-wing at the time, meant Di Maria had been relegated to the bench.
Despite being linked heavily with PSG during the 2014 summer transfer window, it was United who managed to secure the signature of the Argentine.
Di Maria’s United career can perhaps be summed up by the side’s game away to Leicester City during the 2014/15 season. A wonderfully-lofted ball from Di Maria over Kasper Schmeichel put Van Gaal’s men 2-0 up in the 15th minute.
As many United fans know, Leicester went on to win the game 5-3, thanks to an emerging Jamie Vardy who played a part in all of the Foxes’ goals (one goal, four assists).
The following months saw Di Maria’s United’s career decline so much that he found himself again starting games on the bench.
These days, Di Maria plies his trade at the club he is believed to have wanted to join over Manchester United in the first place: PSG.
The 31-year-old played a vital part in the French club’s dismantling of United in the Champions League in February – not to mention the several league titles he’s won since joining the Parisians.
I think it’s safe to say Di Maria got the last laugh.
Following his breakout season in the Eredivisie for PSV, Memphis Depay was a commodity highly sought after throughout the footballing world.
Depay managed 25 goals in 41 appearances for the Dutch side during the 2014/15 season, and arrived at Old Trafford with a point to prove.
A pacey, powerful, and physical goal-scoring winger, Depay seemed the perfect remedy for United’s woes at number seven.
However, Depay became yet another promising signing turned sour by poor performances and a rocky relationship with Jose Mourinho.
18 months after signing for United, Depay – like Di Maria – moved to the French league to find his footing.
To this day he plays his football for Lyon. His transition to striker under Bruno Genesio has been a revelation, scoring 24 goals in 51 appearances so far.
However, Depay is currently experiencing a 17-game goal drought, his last strike being against Guingamp in November – ironically enough, since he posted his infamous Instagram freestyle.
Should the 25-year-old find form once more, United may be forced to consider triggering the buy-back clause they smartly put in place when he left.
I’m sure United are all wondering what a Paul Pogba/Memphis Depay collab would sound like. Jose Mourinho diss track, possibly?
Finally, a player up to the task. Right? Wrong.
Alexis Sanchez joined the club as part of a swap deal involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January 2018.
Sanchez became a revelation at Arsenal after joining from Barcelona in 2014, where he fell second fiddle to Pedro on the Barca right wing.
During his time at the Emirates, he managed 60 goals in 122 appearances, becoming one of the standout talents in the Premier League.
However, despite Mkhitaryan himself suffering from a questionable tenure at United, many believe that Arsenal are the ones who have got the better end of the deal.
Sanchez has managed just three goals in 27 Premier League appearances for United, one of which was a penalty.
Since Solskjaer’s appointment, he’s been demoted to the bench for key games, falling behind Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and even Juan Mata.
It’s safe to say that if Sanchez does not start to improve his showings on the field, he could be next on the chopping block. We’ve already seen Solskjaer’s mercilessness when he let Marouane Fellaini go in January.
The financial burden Sanchez also brings should also be noted. He is currently United’s highest-paid player, on wages believed to be in excess of £350,000 per week.