Manchester United: The Illustrious No. 7

  on June 26 2012 7:40 AM

The No. 7 shirt at Manchester United is probably the most iconic shirt number in the World. It's been glittered with stars upon stars but it now remains undesignated after Michael Owen's departure.

The first major star to wear the No. 7 for Manchester United was the one and only George Best. "The Beautiful Boy" joined the red half of Manchester in 1963. He had a memorable 11 year spell at Old Trafford winning Manchester United's first ever European Cup. However, many probably think he won more than he actually did.

Only two league titles and two charity shields accompanied the European success. This doesn't take anything away from his goal scoring prowess. He scored 137 league goals for United and he is a legend of the British game. He also remains the only player to win the Ballon d'Or from Northern Ireland.

Bryan Robson was the next big star to wear the illustrious shirt. Not many people know how good Robson actually was. Many probably don't even know who he is. He joined United in 1981 whilst the club had just placed "Big Ron" as Dave Sexton's successor. He became a vital player for United in the 80s and became the club captain. Even when Alex Ferguson took the United helm in 1986, Robson remained captain and remained vital to the club.

If you still believe that Robson wasn't a major star and he wasn't very good, one only has to mention his England career. He won 90 caps in one of England's most successful eras and one of Bobby Robson's key men in Italia 90 until he was sent home after injury. He was undoubtedly a deserving man for the No. 7 shirt at Old Trafford.

The next major star to wear the iconic shirt was the catalyst for the whole Premier League. Eric Cantona was signed for by Ferguson for a mere £1 million from Leeds United. The charismatic Frenchman was one of Ferguson's best ever signings and was key to their unrivalled success in the 90s.

Although "King Eric" retired so early from football, he had enjoyed a magnificent era at the Red Devils. Four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, three community shields and a wonder goal against Sunderland. Eric Cantona was the King of cool and wore that shirt with pride. It wasn't just a number to him, it was a nonchalant accessory. Cantona paved the way for foreign players to embrace the English league as they do today.

After "King Eric" came "Golden Balls", David Beckham. Although Beckham had an array of numbers before the No. 7 graced his back, he made it his own very quickly. One of the Premier League's great ambassadors and part of Fergie's Fledglings, Beckham was iconic. He was part of the first ever English club to win the Champions League and played a huge part in United's era of dominance.

Perhaps his best goal came against Wimbledon in 1997. A fantastic lob from the halfway line caught Neill Sullivan on his heels. In some ways like Cantona and Best, Beckham fled United for pastures new. Unfortunately, he became another No. 7 to have his United career and legacy questioned. However, never should one question the ability, the determination, the leadership and the celebrity which is David Beckham.

The latest superstar to wear the namesake number was Cristiano Ronaldo. The world's most expensive payer was signed by Sir Alex in 2003 from Sporting Lisbon after he impressed whilst playing against United. Another masterstroke from Sir Alex, Ronaldo became one of the World's best players whilst at United. He won the Ballon d'Or whilst at Old Trafford and his trophy cabinet was unlike any other player from the noughties.

Skill, power, pace and his finishing ability were just a few of his traits that he displayed show in the No. 7 shirt in addition to his free kick ability. He has since become the most profitable player to ever leave the Premier League after United sold him for an initial fee of £80 million but that figure has since rose, because of add-ons, to over £100 million.

When Ronaldo left, Michael Owen was given the iconic shirt number. However he failed to make a mark at United and his best days were past him. On the other hand United fans will always remember his winning goal in the 4-3 derby match against City. Amazing but not iconic, the shirt remains undesignated and United's newest high profile signing Shinji Kagawa has declined the shirt and said he wants to make his own name at the club.

The shirt has seen stunning, charismatic and incredible goals. George Best scored an amazing volley which looped past the 'keeper while Cantona's iconic moments were his chip against Sunderland and his winning FA Cup volley against Liverpool. Beckham's halfway line lob and title winning free-kicks will also go down in history.

Ronaldo showed everyone that free-kicks don't have to look the same with his unique style. The shirt will be worn by a star again but who that star player will be is unknown. Perhaps Ferguson will give it to his latest prodigy Nick Powell. Perhaps he can make it his own and perhaps he can score some title winning goals with the No. 7 on his back.

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