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Friday 22 August 2014

Seven of the best Man United number 7s

Published 27/01/2014 | 11:53

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A collection of medals and trophies won by George Best are to go on auction
George Best was one of the best number 7s the world has ever seen

Juan Mata has surprised everyone by revealing he will sport the less memorable No 8 shirt at Manchester United, not the iconic No 7.

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The Spanish midfielder, who joined from Chelsea for £37.1m, will hope to have more success in it than its previous owner - the Brazilian midfielder Anderson, whose largely forgettable spell at United appears to have ended after he joined Fiorentina on loan for the rest of the season.

But is the No 7 shirt at Old Trafford now a poisoned chalice? The last owner, Antonio Valencia ditched the shirt because of the pressure it held, and the England international Michael Owen failed to set the world alight in it.

So the search now continues for the next wearer of that red No 7 shirt, following in the footsteps of George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Here, we look at some of the most illustrious United figures who at some stage have all been the magnificent seven.

1. GEORGE BEST

Not exclusively a number seven. Indeed, Best probably wore number 11 more often. However, on the greatest night of his footballing life, when United defeated Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley, Best was wearing the seven shirt.

2. STEVE COPPELL

He may not be quite as famous as some of the other greats but Coppell kept the number seven shirt for six years following his arrival at United. He wore it in three FA Cup finals, including the 1977 victory over Liverpool.

3. BRYAN ROBSON

Coppell switched when Robson made his British record move from West Brom in 1981. The inspirational midfielder became the first player to captain three FA Cup-winning teams, also led United to the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup, and the League Cup before getting his hands on the first Premier League title in 1993.

4. ERIC CANTONA

When the Premier League made squad numbers mandatory at the start of the 1993-94 campaign, Cantona was handed the shirt. The Frenchman had already earned himself a place in United folklore and went on to win four titles and two FA Cups, scoring the winner against Liverpool in the 1996 final, when he had also been named captain.

5. DAVID BECKHAM

After Cantona's sudden retirement, Beckham leapt at the chance to switch from 10 to seven. It meant he was the player who wore the shirt during the 1998-99 treble-winning campaign, and the subsequent titles in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

6. CRISTIANO RONALDO

Despite his tender years Sir Alex Ferguson felt Ronaldo had the strength of character to cope with the number seven shirt. He proved that in abundance during a six-year stint in which he was crowned World Player of the Year in 2008 for his phenomenal 42-goal contribution to a campaign in which United won both the Champions League and Premier League.

7. MICHAEL OWEN

Even Owen would acknowledge he spent too much time injured to be a legendary number seven. However, he did score a pretty famous goal, the injury-time winner in a 4-3 epic with Manchester City at Old Trafford, so for that reason alone he demands inclusion.

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