Mata to follow legends in United number 7 shirt
Record signing set to emulate Best, Robson and Ronaldo in iconic jersey as he is unveiled today
Published 27/01/2014 | 02:30
Manchester United will announce Juan Mata's Old Trafford squad number when the £37.1m club record transfer is registered with the Premier League today – and the Spaniard is on the brink of becoming the latest player to wear the iconic No 7 shirt.
With Wayne Rooney occupying the No 10 shirt worn by Mata at Chelsea, the 25-year-old is likely to be given the option of seven or nine – both currently vacant – when he selects his number.
With George Best wearing a variety of shirt numbers depending on his position in each match, and more often 11 than 7, Bryan Robson is regarded as United's first celebrated No 7, with the midfielder wearing the shirt for more than a decade until Eric Cantona claimed the jersey after his arrival from Leeds in November 1992.
When Cantona retired in 1997, David Beckham was handed the No 7 by Alex Ferguson, who then bestowed the shirt on his replacement – a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo – in 2003.
"No one has had the shirt this season, but Mata is good enough to be our No 7," said Robson. "His temperament is such that it wouldn't overawe him after it has been worn by players like Beckham and Ronaldo.
"Mata has some of the qualities of previous United No 7s, even though he has a style of his own and doesn't remind me of any player in particular.
"The similarities are that he is a creative player with great skill and the fans love to watch players like that."
Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia have since worn the shirt, with Valencia relinquishing the number last summer in order to return to No 25 after a difficult 12 months in the seven shirt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)