Manchester United striker Michael Owen revealed last week via Twitter that the club would not be offering him a new contract. This brings an end to Owen’s three years at Old Trafford which have been marred with injuries. His imminent departure signals the availability of the famous Number 7 shirt for next season. “What’s the fuss over a jersey? It’s just a number” you may say, but the importance of this jersey to the Old Trafford faithful cannot be overlooked.
It goes without saying that it is arguably the most famous jersey in Manchester United’s history. The mumbles and the grumbles from fans when Owen was handed the jersey at the start of the 09/10 season said it all, with many claiming he would do the jersey a disservice.
Three seasons down the line, the jersey lies in waiting for its next successor. Now the million dollar question: Who is the right man to be United’s next No.7? Who is the right man to follow in the path of George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo?
1. Luis Nani
Like Ronaldo, Nani was purchased from Sporting Lisbon, albeit in the summer of 2007. He was predicted as the natural successor to Ronaldo and was expected to be United’s main man after his Portuguese comrade’s departure. But three seasons after Ronaldo’s sale to Madrid, Nani is yet to cement his place as the ‘go-to’ man for United. It is often said that “Nani blows hot and cold.” His inconsistency is a worry for United fans and doubts linger over whether he will ever be able to fulfill his potential. There are some who believe the Number 7 jersey is what Nani needs to finally come good, since it will be a sign of Fergie’s undoubted faith in him.
Natural successor? Is it finally Nani’s time?
2. Antonio Valencia
Purchased the season after Ronaldo’s departure, Valencia has hardly put a foot wrong ever since. His consistency and near perfect crosses made him a crowd favourite in a short space of time. The manner in which he came back into the squad and played like he had never been away, after being sidelined with a broken foot is testament to the determination of this lad. Fresh from a season where he won the club’s Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards, it’s hard to argue with the fact that he doesn’t deserve the Number 7 jersey. But then again Valencia doesn’t possess that superstar tag like the likes of Beckham and Cantona, and goes about his business in a quiet fashion.
Mr. Reliable. Valencia has staked his claimed for the coveted number
3. Ashley Young
Young had his ups and downs in his first season as a United player and would be the first to admit he didn’t perform to the maximum of his ability. Yet still we saw glimpses of him at his very best as Brad Friedel and Wojciech Szczesny would attest to. Some have ironically likened his diving antics to that of Ronaldo and have concluded he’s the best candidate for the number. He currently wears the Number 18 jersey which previously belonged to Scholes. But with the Ginger Maestro staying for one more season, who knows what lies in store for Young.
Looks familiar? Young likened to Ronaldo for the wrong reasons
4. New signing
This is the most popular choice among red fans, who would like to see a marquee signing given the number 7. Shinji Kagawa and Eden Hazard top this list, with the latter the most widely preferred, since he has the “superstar attribute” as well as some arrogance to go along with it. Whether or not we would sign one or both of them is unclear, but if at least one of them is purchased it is widely believed he will be assigned the jersey number.
Kagawa or Hazard for Number 7 . Anyone?
Here are views from some United fans:
“I’d go for Valencia. He has been consistent over the past 2 seasons, you can see how our play improves when he’s playing.”
“I’d tip Hazard! Watched him, liked him. He’s a game changer.”
“A new signing for the number would be best, to bring some freshness into the number. Hazard maybe.”
“I prefer Nani in our number 7 jersey next season.. I still believe he has the potential to fill in that position…its just a matter of time.”
A new season begins in some months time and the lads will be out to reclaim the Premier League crown. The Number 7 jersey is up for grabs. The question is : Who Is Next?