Man Utd's best and worst No 7s ever from George Best to Angel Di Maria as Ronaldo prepares to pull on famous shirt

CRISTIANO RONALDO will return to Old Trafford on Saturday — and rightfully reclaims the iconic No 7 shirt he graced in his first stint.

It was made famous by George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham — producing their own thrilling football with the number on their backs.

But for many who have worn it since Ronaldo and his CR7 brand left in 2009, it has also proved a heavy burden.

Here, SunSport’s Manchester United reporter NEIL CUSTIS looks at the hits and misses in that magical jersey.

HITS

GEORGE BEST (1963-74)

In full flight, there was no more thrilling sight — perhaps until Ronaldo himself came along.

The first flickering black-and- white images of Best on the ball helped to make Manchester United the global name it is today.

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When you consider the pitches the 1968 European Cup winner worked his magic on as well, it makes his skill all the more remarkable.

In his time at the club he made 470 appearances — scoring 179 goals.

BRYAN ROBSON (1981-94)

The original Captain Marvel will forever be revered for his swashbuckling displays — many of which have gone down in the annals of history at Old Trafford.

And the 1983-84 European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final was the greatest of all, as Diego Maradona’s Barcelona came to Manchester with a 2-0 lead from the first leg.

Cue Robson’s greatest night. He inspired United to a remarkable 3-0 win, scoring twice himself. He never left anything out there.

DAVID BECKHAM (1992-2003)

It is a shame for him that his looks and celebrity status are talked about so much, that his actual footballing ability can be forgotten.

But there are few to match him when it came to delivering a dead ball, crosses from the wing or balls through from deep, with the speed and accuracy that he did.

He never did tap-ins either, with an eye for the spectacular — starting from the day he delivered that famous goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon.

ERIC CANTONA (1992-1997)

The catalyst for the Sir Alex glory years. With his collar up and that strut he brought a swagger and arrogance to a side that needed a spark having blown the title in 1992 — to Cantona’s Leeds.

Glory followed him to Old Trafford, where in five years he won four titles and two FA Cups, scoring 82 goals in 185 appearances.

And just like that he was gone again — but certainly never to be forgotten.

STEVE COPPELL (1975-1983)

Not as high profile and headline- grabbing as some others — but those who watched Coppell fly down the wing in the seventies and eighties will testify as to why his name should be up there.

He wore that No 7 in three FA Cup finals, including the 2-1 victory over Liverpool in 1977.

MISSES

MEMPHIS DEPAY (2015-2017)

It says everything about where Barcelona are at now that the Dutchman plies his trade there.

He was pursued by Liverpool and Arsenal before Louis van Gaal persuaded him to come to United.

Eighteen forgettable months later, the winger was gone.

He moaned early on about having to play two games a week and never lived up to his billing.

Probably best remembered for arriving on international duty dressed like a ‘Peruvian pan flute player’, according to Dutch coach Co Adriaanse.

ANGEL DI MARIA (2014-2015)

Goodness me, Van Gaal picked them, didn’t he?

To be fair, Di Maria’s failed spell at Old Trafford was as much down to Van Gaal as the player, who he tried to shackle with his mind-numbing tactics.

Let’s leave it to Di Maria to talk about the honour of wearing the famous shirt: “I didn’t give a f*** about the Manchester United No 7, at first they talked to me a lot about it — it was just a shirt.

“My problem at Manchester was the coach. Van Gaal was the worst of my career.” Fair to say no statues are planned.

ALEXIS SANCHEZ (2018-2020)

Never has so much been paid to deliver so little. His attitude stank — and so did his performances.

The most expensive free transfer in history, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan went the other way in January 2018.

He cost United over £60million in wages, add-ons, signing-on fees etc and his return was 45 appearances and five goals. They could not get him out the door quick enough.


MICHAEL OWEN (2009-2012)

Given that he arrived on a pay-as-you-play deal, it is fair to say the striker did not cost United quite as much as Sanchez.

Owen scored just five Prem goals for United. But he will never be forgotten for that last-gasp goal in a 4-3 win in one of the greatest Manchester derbies of all time in 2009.

Still, for someone so heavily connected with arch rivals Liverpool, the United No 7 just didn’t sit right on his shoulders for many fans.

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