Cantona to Ronaldo, Beckham to Alexis - A history of Man Utd’s No.7s

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With Alexis Sanchez set to take over the iconic No.7 shirt at Old Trafford, Goal looks back at some of those to have worn it down the years...

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    George Best

    An icon on and off the pitch, Best remains the only Northern Irishman to win the Ballon d'Or having finished as United's top scorer for six consecutive seasons before leaving in 1974.

    He helped the Red Devils win two league titles as well as the European Cup in 1968, with his goal in the final contributing to a 4-1 victory over Benfica.

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    Bryan Robson

    'Captain Marvel' was voted United's greatest ever player in a poll of their former players back in 2011, and for his all-action midfield displays it was easy to see why.

    Playing 461 times for the Red Devils, Robson scored 99 goals and became their first English captain to lift the FA Cup as well as helping to secure Premier League and Cup Winners' Cup triumphs.

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    Keith Gillespie

    Part of the United side that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992, Gillespie followed in his fellow countryman Best's shoes and was handed the No.7 shirt by Sir Alex Ferguson.

    He failed to fully establish himself at Old Trafford, however, with Andrei Kanchelskis keeping him out of the team for long periods before he was eventually sold to Newcastle in 1995.

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    Eric Cantona

    When permanent squad numbers were introduced to English football in the 1993-94 season, there was only really one option for United to hand their No.7 to - 'King Eric'.

    Signed from Leeds United in 1992, Cantona terrorised opposition defences for five years at Old Trafford, scoring outrageous goals for fun as Ferguson's side began to dominate the English game.

    He will likely always be remembered for his infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park, but his playing legacy will never be forgotten on the red side of Manchester.

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    David Beckham

    The ultimate celebrity footballer, Beckham grew from a precocious young winger into one of the better modern England captains during his time at Old Trafford.

    Though he didn't always see eye to eye with Ferguson, Beckham played a key role in the Red Devils racking up silverware during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    He eventually left for Real Madrid in 2003 after making almost 350 appearances for the club he supported as a boy.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo

    Stepping into Beckham's shoes was never going to be easy for any player, but Ronaldo's talent and self-confidence soon saw him become a crowd favourite at Old Trafford.

    Signed from Sporting, the Portuguese arrived in Manchester a teenager and left as one of the world's biggest stars, becoming United's first Ballon d'Or winner since Best in the process.

    He, like Beckham, eventually departed for Real Madrid, joining the Blancos in a world-record £80 million deal in 2009.

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    Michael Owen

    Dogged by injuries, his association with Liverpool and the fact he was up against Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov meant Owen was always fighting a losing battle from the moment he joined United in 2009.

    He struggled to make much of an impact during his three years at Old Trafford, though his stoppage-time winner to beat Manchester City just months after arriving at the club will see him go down in Old Trafford folklore.

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    Antonio Valencia

    Signed to bomb down the right-hand side from Wigan Athletic, Valencia was handed the No.7 shirt for the 2012-13 campaign following Owen's departure.

    He struggled to live up to the added weight of the shirt, however, and reverted back to his favoured No.25 the following year, with his form since improving so much that he is now United's on-field captain and one of the first names on the teamsheet.

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    Angel Di Maria

    After a season in which the No.7 shirt was not used, Di Maria arrived from Real Madrid having been named Man of the Match in the Champions League final just months previously.

    The Argentine quickly fell out of favour under Louis van Gaal, however, and despite finishing the season with 12 assists and four goals, the winger was sold to Paris Saint-Germain after just a year in England.

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    Memphis Depay

    Signed for £25 million having impressed for PSV, Memphis was unable to lie up to the hype or his price tag in the Premier League.

    His best performances for the Red Devils came in European competition, but he soon became surplus to requirements under Jose Mourinho and was sold to Lyon in January 2017.