Football Features

Hit or miss? Every Man United No.7 of the Premier League era

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:36, 6 July 2023

Manchester United have a new no.7.

It’s an iconic shirt number for Man Utd, with legends of the club wearing it over the years including George Best and Bryan Robson, and one that many prospective players perhaps dream of donning at Old Trafford. In recent years, it was hoped that Jadon Sancho would get the number after his move from Borussia Dortmund, while Alejandro Garnacho was reportedly the latest to be considered for the No.7.

But instead the No.7 has gone to Man Utd’s newest signing Mason Mount upon his arrival from Chelsea. The Englishman previously wore No.19 at Chelsea but has donned the No.7 for England and at youth level for the Blues, and it may have been used as an extra selling point to get Mount to Old Trafford.

“Everyone can see that the club has made big steps forward under Erik ten Hag. Having met with the manager and discussed his plans, I couldn’t be more excited for the seasons ahead, and I am ready for the hard work expected here,” Mount said on his arrival.

“I am hugely ambitious; I know how amazing it feels to win major trophies and what it takes to do it. I will be giving everything to experience that again at Manchester United.”

As mentioned, the No.7 is iconic and comes with high hopes and expectations from the club and fans alike. But how have the previous Man Utd No.7s of the Premier League era fared? It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

The stats and trophies listed below are only for each player’s spell as No.7 for Man Utd, not including any other periods at the club.

Eric Cantona

Games: 181
Goals: 80
Trophies: 4x Premier League, 3x Community Shield, 2x FA Cup

The first Man Utd No.7 of the Premier League era, Eric Cantona inherited the shirt from Bryan Robson, big shoes to fill at Old Trafford. Five years later, Cantona left Man Utd and retired in 1997, having truly lived up to the expectations of the No.7. Cantona was one of the greatest players the Premier League has ever seen, combining technical skill and elegance as well as a penchant for goals. There’s a reason he is called King Eric.

VERDICT: HIT

David Beckham

Games: 294
Goals: 64
Trophies: 4x Premier League, 1998/99 FA Cup, 1998/99 Champions League, 1999 Community Shield, 1999 Intercontinental Cup

Perhaps the man that made the No.7 shirt the most iconic for a generation at Old Trafford, David Beckham became synonymous with the number for club and country until taking the No.23 at Real Madrid — but even then, No.7 was his. He was the reason a lot of football fans approaching their thirties will have seven as their favourite number. Nowadays he is perhaps remembered more for his status off the pitch, but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that Beckham was largely unrivalled for his crossing and free-kicks. He still holds the record for most direct free-kicks scored in the Premier League.

VERDICT: HIT

Cristiano Ronaldo

Games: 292
Goals: 118
Trophies: 3x Premier League, 2x League Cup, 2003/04 FA Cup, 2007 Community Shield, 2007/08 Champions League, 2008 Club World Cup

The last player to win the Ballon d’Or while playing in the Premier League, Cristiano Ronaldo may be the most iconic Man Utd No.7 for a large number of young fans – especially those who may have watched back his highlights on YouTube. The joint-most successful No.7 in terms of trophies, Ronaldo did what Cantona couldn’t and won the Champions League with Man Utd, scoring a towering header in the final (though he missed from the spot in the shootout). Ronaldo did a slow start to life as No.7, handed the shirt very early on but boy did he grow into it.

VERDICT: HIT

Michael Owen

Games: 52
Goals: 17
Trophies: 2009/10 League Cup, 2010 Community Shield, 2010/11 Premier League

After a year without a No.7 following the departure of Ronaldo, Michael Owen was the next in line to don the shirt and unfortunately this was the start of an underwhelming period. While Owen ended his three-season stay at Old Trafford with three trophies, it wasn’t a great period for the former Ballon d’Or winner who played just 52 times across three campaigns. He will always have that Fergie Time goal against Manchester City, though.

VERDICT: MISS

Antonio Valencia

Games: 40
Goals: 1
Trophies: 2012/13 Premier League

Antonio Valencia’s Man Utd career as a whole is definitely a good one and he’ll always be a hero at Old Trafford, but his one season as No.7 wasn’t anything special even though he did win the Premier League. The Ecuadorean joined Man Utd at the same time as Owen so took the No.25, but took his chance with the No.7 once the Englishman left. However, it would last just one season as Valencia returned to No.25 to allow the next man to take the iconic shirt.

VERDICT: MISS

Angel Di Maria

Games: 32
Goals: 4
Trophies: 0

There were high hopes when Man Utd broke the British transfer record in signing Angel Di Maria for £59.7m and of course he was given the No.7 shirt, a statement of intent but also showing the kind of level they expected from Argentine. The man to bring glory back to the No.7. But despite a good start, Di Maria just didn’t settle at Old Trafford and one year later he was sold to PSG for £44.3m, a loss of £15.3m in just 12 months.

VERDICT: MISS

Memphis Depay

Games: 53
Goals: 7
Trophies: 0

The next signing meant to bring good fortune back to the No.7 shirt was Memphis Depay but the move just came at the wrong time for the Dutchman, who really struggled to make a significant impact at Old Trafford. Playing 53 times across all competitions over a season-and-a-half, Depay was allowed to leave for Lyon after just 18 months where he thrived.

VERDICT: MISS


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Alexis Sanchez

Games: 45
Goals: 5
Trophies: 0

The piano came out for Alexis Sanchez’s announcement and Man Utd also dusted off the No.7 shirt, after a year of inactivity following Depay’s departure. But again Sanchez followed the pattern of those before him, flattering to deceive, and struggled to make his mark at Old Trafford. With five goals in 45 games, Sanchez was sent on loan to Inter Milan after 18 months and eventually joined permanently, winning the league title with them.

VERDICT: MISS

Edinson Cavani

Games: 40
Goals: 17
Trophies: 0

There was another year break before the No.7 had its latest owner, this time Edinson Cavani who joined in 2020. The first out-and-out striker to don the shirt since Michael Owen, Cavani came in at Man Utd’s time of need and he performed pretty well. Sure, he wasn’t as iconic as Cantona, Beckham or Ronaldo, but it was a breath of fresh air for the No.7 after so many poor showings. It wouldn’t last though…

VERDICT: HIT

Cristiano Ronaldo (again)

Games: 54
Goals: 27
Trophies: 0

Making his return to Man Utd in 2021, Ronaldo took back his No.7 shirt with Cavani graciously stepping aside, because it’s CR7, not CR-another number. The first campaign back at Man Utd was a good one, with Ronaldo scoring 24 goals in 39 games across all competitions but the fall out last season which saw the Portuguese star throwing his toys out the buggy and eventually pushing a move to Saudi Arabia, relegates this to a big stinker.

VERDICT: MISS

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