By Jared Mercer
It’s no secret. The number 7 jersey at Manchester United has been worn by many heroes, many legends. George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo being the best examples of the past four decades of legendary number sevens, but since Ronaldo’s departure, a natural phenomenon has yet to emerge as the bearer of the legendary shirt.
First there was Michael Owen, former Liverpool player, who spent most of his United career in the dugout or on the injured reserve, and scored a couple of memorable goals but nothing of real note. The highlight of his Red Devils career being a late winner against Manchester City in his first season, which was exciting, but was also about it. He now “plays” for Stoke where it is likely Owen’s career will fade into an end. The current man in red uniform to wear the number 7 shirt is Ecuadorian Antonio Valencia, who began his United career in 2009/10 wearing the number 25 jersey. While supported by the Old Trafford faithful, Valencia and the history of the old Man Utd 7 have not mixed.
Valencia is a true number 7 in the sense that he is a pure right winger who rarely leaves his role of hugging the side touchline. He was successful at doing so in his three seasons at Wigan Athletic. Scoring 7 goals in his three years at Wigan, he was not overly impressive but showed good signs of being a consistent Premiership performer. When Alex Ferguson snapped him up for £16 million, it seemed like a heavy price for a player of reasonable quality who had not made too much of an impact in England.