From Best to Ronaldo: The iconic Manchester United No.7’s Valencia will look to emulate

Antonio Valencia The Ecuador winger was confirmed to be the new owner of the famous shirt following Michael Owen’s departure, but who has excelled and failed with the jersey over the years?

In world football there are few more iconic shirts than Manchester United’s No.7 jersey, with several renowned superstars making it their own while at Old Trafford, and following Michael Owen’s release it now has a new owner: Luis Antonio Valencia.

Ever since his first season at the club, the Ecuadorian has become a fan favourite for a majority of reasons, with his direct and incessant runs at defenders, his powerful physical attributes added to immense pace and his humble, quiet nature off the field.

In the grand scheme of things, allocated squad numbers are a fairly recent phenomena as they were only introduced in 1993, meaning many players wore several different numbers before then. Valencia seems like an exact contrast to the more high-profile players to wear the number on their back, with the 26-year-old not one associated with the limelight like some of his predecessors.

The choice to give the former Wigan man the No.7 jersey will almost certainly be a popular decision due to the fans’ adoration for him, while it may also be seen as a breath of fresh air given the rather glamorous history.

World renowned superstars and those dubbed Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst-ever signing have worn the famous No. 7 shirt for United, and takes a look at both sides of that coin.

Although Best often played in a similar position to Valencia, the differences in their general demeanour could not be more contrasting with the Northern Irishman’s off-field antics heavily publicised.

A serial womaniser and alcoholic, Best was constantly in the public eye due to his extravagant lifestyle which included dating Playboy models, gambling and spending big money on cars amongst other things.

Although a bumpy ride off the pitch, on it Best was more akin to a figure-skater, with everything made to look effortlessly easy and smooth as he would glide past defenders thanks to his immense pace and skill. But his ability to use both feet made him fantastically unpredictable, which undoubtedly helped carve a brilliant goalscoring record.

Best is still the only Northern Irish player to win the Ballon d’Or, while his defining moment in a United shirt saw him lift the European Cup in 1968, scoring in a 4-1 final win over Benfica, but after that the genius’ career began to decline as problems arose.

In Best’s United stint, the only other silverware the club won were two league titles and another two Charity Shields, while he finished as their top scorer in six consecutive seasons before he eventually left the club in 1974 at the age of 27. He went on to play for another 14 clubs, eventually retiring in 1984 and passed away in 2005 after a long battle with liver problems.

There was not a great deal that Bryan Robson could not do, with the England international the embodiment of the complete footballer as he controlled matches and turned them on their heads from his midfield position.

Famously United’s longest serving captain in the club’s history, Robson’s trademark bursts through the midfield resulted in an impressive goalscoring return, but his anticipation, bravery, competitiveness and stamina also made him a formidable player in his own half.

In 1983 Robson became the first English captain to lift the FA Cup trophy for United, while the following year a move to Juventus nearly came to fruition. However he remained at Old Trafford until 1994, helping his side lift the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup in Rotterdam in 1991, beating Barcelona in the final.

‘Captain Marvel’ as he was nicknamed, played 461 times for the club, managing an impressive 99 goals, with his last appearance coming in a 0-0 home draw against Coventry City in May 1994. He has ever since been hailed as an all-time great, with a poll of former United players voting him as the club’s best-ever player in 2011.

“King Eric” fits more into the mould of Best than Robson, thanks to his eccentric style that some perceived as arrogance, but even though he had a relatively short spell at the club, he is remembered just as fondly.

Cantona received the No. 7 shirt the summer after arriving from Leeds United, a gesture that suggested time was coming to an end at Old Trafford for Robson, who was subsequently given No. 12, and the France international made the fledgling Premier League his play-thing, toying with it for five years as he tantalised defences until he retired in 1997.

Arriving from bitter rivals Leeds, Cantona did not take long to settle into the United team, with the form of Mark Hughes and Brian McClair, as well as an injury to Dion Dublin, ensuring plenty of playing time and he became the first player to win consecutive top-division titles with two different clubs.

Regardless of his achievements at the club, Cantona is likely to be remembered most for his infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan after being sent off, later producing arguably his most memorable and incomprehensible quote: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.”

Cantona received an eight-month worldwide ban and various fines, while he attempted to leave the club on a number of occasions, but he remained and went on to claim four Premier League titles, two FA Cup wins and three triumphs in the Charity Shield, while he also came third in the 1993 Ballon d’Or.

In terms of legacy, how many other United players can say they have had a film based on them?

If George Best created the celebrity footballer lifestyle, David Beckham mastered it. His marriage to a former Spice Girl is the main catalyst behind that, according to Sir Alex, who felt getting married was a bad move for the midfielder.

The paparazzi and press followed Beckham everywhere he went with the England midfielder becoming more well-known by the match, and one in particular really put him on the map as he scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996.

Beckham was fully immersed in the United first-team by the 1996-97 season and by mid-2000 he had already won four Premier League titles, with the third being the most famous as it came as part of the club’s 1999 treble, adding to the Champions League and FA Cup triumphs. Beckham’s set-piece deliveries were a key part of the European success against Bayern Munich.

Controversy often reared its ugly head in the presence of Beckham too, with his sending off for kicking Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup the obvious example, and he was subsequently vilified in England as the Three Lions were knocked out of the tournament.

The more attractive to the media Beckham got, it seemed the more keen Ferguson was to be rid of him. And after reports of rifts between the pair Becks left to join the ‘Galacticos’ era at Real Madrid in 2003 after making 346 appearances in the Premier League and Champions League for United.

United’s first-ever Portuguese player was signed soon after the departure of Beckham and effectively served as his direct replacement, but many fans were bemused as to why United paid over £12m for a relatively unknown player. However, after a 30-minute cameo in a 4-0 win over Bolton, all was clear.

The lanky winger with peculiar chewing gum-like strands of white in his hair came on to the pitch and was instantly tricking his way past defenders, producing step-overs as if negotiating a minefield and dazzling the Bolton defence, with ‘Ronaldo 7’ shirts popping up everywhere within the coming weeks.

Silly acts of petulance and the preference to beat his man twice rather than pass were the young winger’s weakness in his early years, but he matured to great effect, scoring and assisting a total of 127 goals in all competitions in his final three years at the club, while he managed three Premier League titles, one Champions League win and five other trophies at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo’s successes at United were not only team-related as he also become the first-ever Premier League player to win the Fifa World Player of the Year award, and the club’s first Ballon d’Or winner since Best in 1968. But the day all United fans dreaded eventually came in June 2009 as the superstar signed for Real Madrid for a world record £80m, following in the footsteps of Beckham.

Michael Owen

From day one Michael Owen was fighting a losing battle to become a significant player at United. The fact he was previously regarded as a Liverpool legend was one problem, but he was attempting to wrestle a first-team place away from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.

Injuries were always an issue for Owen at United as it hampered his involvement. The emergence of Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda also threatened the former Real Madrid man’s influence, although an injury-time winner against Manchester City at Old Trafford was a real highlight.

The jubilation at Old Trafford for that goal was obvious and Owen will undoubtedly be remembered most for that during his time at United, while he also grabbed an impressive hat-trick away to Wolfsburg in the Champions League in December 2009. However injuries persisted for the rest of the season, and he missed the final three months.

In his second year he claimed his first-ever Premier League winners medal after competing in just 11 matches. However, this past campaign Owen managed just one Premier League appearance with fitness problems dogging him throughout, and United decided against renewing his contract for a fourth term. Perhaps he is a signing that should never have happened and he rarely looked good enough, but he will at least be remembered for that goal against City.

Ralph Milne

Considering the fact squad numbers were not allocated until 1993, Milne was never an ‘official’ No. 7 like Beckham or Ronaldo, but he did wear the shirt during his three years at the club.

The midfielder was tipped to have a big future by his coach at Dundee United, Jimmy McLean, but problems with his mentality and attitude meant his potential was never truly realised, despite eventually finding himself at United.

Milne was signed by the Red Devils as they searched for a first title win since 1967, but a poor season in which the signing from Bristol hardly contributed saw Ferguson’s side finish well down in 11th, a year after finishing second.

A common consensus among United fans is the view that Milne is among the club’s worst-ever players, while Ferguson regards him as his worst signing after paying £170,000 for the Scot.

Milne later admitted to suffering from alcoholism and an addiction to gambling, adding that this was an ongoing problem even during his playing career, problems McLean feels had a massive effect on his success, or lack of.

Keith Gillespie

As a part of the same FA Youth Cup winning team as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, Gillespie was another that promised much, with his pace and trickery down the wing his trademark.

The Northern Irishman made his debut against Bury in 1993, a match in which he also scored, but Gillespie’s main problem was the presence of Andrei Kanchelskis in the United first-team, the powerful Russian winger who rarely looked displaceable.

A loan to Wigan Athletic drew optimistic conclusions as he managed four goals in eight matches. But the reliability of Kanchelskis meant Gillespie had to make the most of fleeting appearances, and eventually he moved on, joining Newcastle United in a deal that saw Andrew Cole move to Old Trafford.

Probably Gillespie’s biggest moment in a United shirt saw him score in a 2-0 win over his future employers, Newcastle, a win that ensured Ferguson’s side replaced the Magpies at the top of the Premier League table.

Gillespie was reportedly offered the chance to return to United once Kanchelskis left, but he remained at Newcastle, with Ferguson deciding to give Beckham his chance.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Ashley Grimes

John O’Shea made quite the living off the back of his versatility at Old Trafford, rarely excelling in a specific position, but was fairly steady in a number of different areas. Versatility was also one of the main attributes of Grimes during his six-year stint at United.

The Republic of Ireland international played at left-back and in midfield for United. He made 90 appearances for the club after joining in 1977, having previously failed to earn a contract in an earlier trial.

Grimes never held down a first-team place and suffered in particular when Dave Sexton was replaced by Ron Atkinson as manager. ‘Big Ron’ brought in his own signings, one of which was Bryan Robson, an acquisition that ultimately doomed Grimes and had him headed for the Old Trafford exit.

The Dublin-born player scored his first two goals for United in consecutive matches, the first against QPR in April 1978 at Old Trafford, and the second coming in a 3-0 win over West Ham, while he managed at least one goal in each of his six seasons at the club.

Although he arrived 10 years after the club’s last league title and 15 years before their next, Grimes did not leave United without winning silverware as he picked up an FA Cup winners medal from the 1983 final, albeit as an unused sub, while he went on to play for Coventry, Luton, Stoke and even a spell in Spain with Osasuna.

the iconic no.7.. finally moves to valencia. the burden now lies with antonio valencia. he deserves it. no other player seems more suitable. anyhow i still think, to date CR7 is still the best ever to have worn that number. but i was never a fan of him. nevertheless, let’s hope next season brings more glory to the hands of manchester united.. glory glory man united.. article from

syafeerul: world of football

european leagues for 2011/2012 season ended a week ago. full of drama this season. sadly only one of my favorite clubs ended with a silverware. the rest had a great season but fall dramatically at the end.

 my favorite club of all time. they had a though season. with injuries to key players and absence of star players. scholesy was called back to fill the void when fletcher carrick anderson, all injured.

the season saw emergence of cleverly, welbeck.. great young players. although they had a difficult season, they did well, being top towards season end. only a flop at everton costs them the title. man city dramatically wins with goals in injury time.. who would’ve though that.. anyhow man city did well. and they deservedly win the title.

manchester united need to come stronger next season. they need to strengthen the squad. i hope fergie would have something in mind for next season.. great fight. great season. see you guys again next season..

its quite weird when the bavarian didn’t win the title. they’re always the strongest team in bundesliga. but this season borussia dortmund proved otherwise. the  bavarian finished second. fair enough, the winning team played better game through the season. but the most unsatisfying fact was that when they lost to chelsea in the champions league finals. it would’ve been acceptable should chelsea played better. but the blues was defensive for the whole game. the bavarian should’ve won the game.. yet lady luck was not on their side. next season i hope.. 

 in serie A, juventus have always been my favorite. the old lady finally won the scudetto. last season they worked hard, building up the understanding between new and old players. this season they came strong and won the title.

but this would be the last for club’s greatest player Alessandro Del Piero. he played his last game with Juve and he now hangs his boots. i must say, despite his small physical appearance compared to most top players today excluding messi, he was one of the italy’s finest forward. juventus will miss him dearly next season. wish someone would be able to replace him.

congrats juve on a great season. and to del piero, thanks for your great service to the club.

in france, montpellier surprisingly won the title. i didn’t follow ligue 1 very often but i didn’t expect them to win. here i’d watch lyon, marseille and auxerre.. none won anything. and auxerre was bottom.. nothing much to say for this league i guess.

a great rivalry between the giants in la liga saw real madrid finally winning the title. they both had a great season. a neck to neck fight throughout the season. if you ask, i’m not supporting any club here. i do watch real madrid and valencia though.. but no favorite ones here..

the season was a dramatic one. on of the greatest season i must say. and now EURO2012 awaits.. let’s see who’s the champion of europe! 

Next generation of Manchester United stars ready to assume the mantle

The Manchester United defender Phil Jones, right, is amongst those ready to lead the new-look side to success.

Sir Alex Ferguson has always trusted young players, but the exceptional current crop have left him with almost no option.

At 37, Ryan Giggs would still rather think of himself some days as more like an 18-year-old with 19 years’ experience. But then he sees his younger Manchester United team-mates wearing their “mad clothes”, listens to their conversations and cannot help but feel out of the loop sometimes. “It is when they start talking about computer games,” he says. “They play something called Black Ops, it goes completely over my head.”

The thirtysomethings at Old Trafford have all been watching from the sidelines recently. Giggs, the club’s oldest player, has not started either of United’s two league games and watched the Community Shield in his suit, not even selected among the substitutes. Michael Carrick has not played a single minute of the wins against West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur. Dimitar Berbatov has been restricted to 26 minutes over the course of three matches.

A theme has developed and, with it, there has been a discernible change behind the scenes. Voices that were rarely heard a year ago have become louder, growing in confidence. “A lot of the older players are no longer there,” Sir Alex Ferguson says, “so we have a young element in the dressing room who are starting to take control of the place.” The manager gives the impression he is enjoying this changing of the guard. “The young players have created a good spirit around the place. There is a perkiness about the dressing room.”

The average age of the team against Tottenham on Monday was 23 years and one month, making it the second youngest side Ferguson had ever put out in the Premier League. The youngest was against Hull City on the final day of the 2008-09 season when United were preparing to play in the Champions League final and Ferguson fielded a team of reserves and academy graduates, with four players handed their first league starts and seven substitutes aged 17 to 21.

Monday was a very different occasion – the first home match of the season, difficult opponents, no Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic – and amid all the praise for the young players a certain amount should be kept back for the manager. It was he, after all, who had the conviction to play Tom Cleverley ahead of Carrick and Danny Welbeck instead of Berbatov. Another manager might have removed David de Gea from the side after his mistakes in the previous matches but Ferguson stayed calm, remembered Peter Schmeichel’s early difficulties in England and decided he had to put his trust in a goalkeeper who, at 20, is half the age of the man he is replacing, Edwin van der Sar.

When Ferguson spoke after the match he gave the impression there had never been a single moment when he was worried how the team would cope without the assuring presence of Vidic and Ferdinand. It had always been his way to trust young players, he reminded us, but there had come a point with the current crop where they left him with almost no option. “This group has such fantastic ability,” he said, “it forces you to play them, really.”

Phil Jones is a case in point, a 19-year-old who gives the impression he is in his 10th year at Old Trafford rather than his 10th week. Sir Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand, team-mates from the European Cup victory of 1968, found themselves talking last week and decided they had already seen enough of Jones to pay him what, in United terms, is probably the ultimate compliment. “If you talk to Bobby Charlton,” Crerand says, “Phil Jones reminds him of Duncan Edwards with his power and build.”

Others will inevitably compare Jones, Cleverley, Welbeck and Chris Smalling with the last group of United players to come off the conveyor belt and create such a frisson of excitement. For now, however, it is probably better to think of the 1995 group of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, the Neville brothers and Paul Scholes (with Giggs a couple of years older) as a once-in-a-lifetime coming together. Cleverley is not Scholes and neither is it fair to expect him to be. But he is doing a fine job keeping Carrick out of the team and, in the process, has turned down the volume, a little, on those who cannot comprehend why the club have not brought in a new category-A midfielder.

Too much can be read into one game, of course. These are only the embryonic stages of the season and Welbeck, for one, can still look raw at times. He is, however, an elusive opponent and the back-heel with which he set up Anderson’s goal against Spurs was an exceptional moment of penetrative forward play.

Then there is the emergence of Smalling – a player, like Jones, whose development means the Old Trafford crowd no longer needs to fret unduly about Ferdinand’s injury problems. Plus the fact Rafael and Fábio da Silva, at the age of 20, did not even play on Monday. Anderson has already shown in flashes that he can have a productive season and, like Jonny Evans, is still young enough, at 23, to be regarded as promising. Ashley Young is 26, a year older than Wayne Rooney and two years older than Nani. Javier Hernández is another 23-year-old and could feasibly be at Old Trafford for the next decade.

Ferguson has been remarkably unselfish when it comes to putting into place a team that will still be around long after his tenure has ended. “We compete in the present but at the same time build for the future,” he says. On both counts, United have reason for optimism.

nicely written article. yup.. i must agree with the writer here.. fergie did well choosing his future lads. these young boys really are proving something. they’re not individually talented or skillful but as a team they showed great strength. let’s hope we’d get more silverwares this year. champion’s league? hm.. that might need much better individual players to beat barcelona.. good luck guys.. article from The Guardian.

City 2 United 3

New players, same old spirit. Sir Alex Ferguson handed four players competitive debuts at Wembley in the Reds’ injury-time Community Shield victory on Sunday, but despite the fresh faces United displayed the same never-say-die attitude that has become the hallmark of the manager’s modern teams.

In the space of six second-half minutes, goals from Chris Smalling and Nani turned around a two-goal deficit and seized back the momentum Manchester City had stolen at the end of the first period. Then, with the match in the fourth minute of injury time and seemingly poised for penalties, Nani charged down a Vincent Kompany clearance on the halfway line, sprinted clear, rounded Joe Hart in the City goal and slid the ball home to clinch the season’s first piece of silverware.

Many had written United off by half-time after goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko – albeit against the run of play – had given the Blues what looked to be an unassailable lead. But changes at the break, including the introduction of debutants Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley, prompted a United fightback that epitomised the strength of character Sir Alex so often speaks of.

The Reds began brightly at Wembley, barely allowing City a kick for the first five minutes and going close when Smalling volleyed goalwards amid a mini melee inside the Blues’ penalty area. The young defender, usually deployed as a centre-back, enjoyed plenty of freedom down the right flank and delivered a number of dangerous crosses.

There was little evidence early on of charitable spirit in this Community Shield clash, as players from both teams flew into tackles on a surface made slippery by a heavy dose of rain just after kick-off. Nemanja Vidic and Mario Balotelli squared up to each other for the briefest of moments before Edin Dzeko and Anderson both earned bookings after they were involved in a shoving match following a late challenge by the Bosnian.

Barely a minute later, Micah Richards lunged in on Ashley Young and was perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow card. Wayne Rooney couldn’t inflict further punishment; his free-kick whizzed just over the crossbar.

Welbeck and Nani then combined to unlock the City defence, although Welbeck’s final ball across goal was cut out by a Blues defender. The young striker then headed tamely into Joe Hart’s arms as United looked to turn early dominance into goals.

A number of niggly fouls disrupted the game’s flow around the half-hour mark and fuelled the already hot atmosphere inside the stadium. One infringement resulted in a United free-kick 30 yards from goal, which almost made its way into the bottom corner via a deflection off the end of the Blues’ wall. Another handed City the lead on 38 minutes.

It was David Silva’s teasing left-footed delivery from the right wing that did the damage. It curled over Vidic but in front of Rio Ferdinand, into an area where Joleon Lescott soared high to head past David De Gea from six yards.

The Spanish goalkeeper’s debut got worse in first-half injury time when a dipping Dzeko shot from distance deceived the 20-year-old and doubled City’s lead. The ball was struck with some venom, but it was its late movement in the air that caught the former Atletico Madrid man by surprise.

So, after a bright start and plenty of early promise, Sir Alex’s men found themselves, somewhat harshly, two goals behind at the break. The boss responded by making three changes – Phil Jones and Jonny Evans came on for Ferdinand and Vidic, Tom Cleverley replaced Carrick – and within 13 minutes the Reds were level.

Like the game’s opener, United’s first goal owed much to set-piece delivery of the highest order. This time it was Ashley Young, bought from Aston Villa in the summer and renowned for his dead-ball prowess, that sent a curling ball into a packed penalty area. When it arrived five yards from goal, Smalling was on hand to volley past Hart and reduce the deficit.

Six minutes later, Nani dinked a delightful finish over Hart to cap a passing move that was as easy on the eye as it was devastatingly effective. Indeed, the Reds will do well to score a better team goal this season.

Nani started the move by passing crisply to Rooney on the edge of the box and continuing his run into the penalty area. Wayne moved the ball on to Cleverley with a cheeky backheel and he, eyeing Nani’s run, laid the ball sideways for the Portuguese to collect in his stride and chip past the advancing Hart.

De Gea did well to keep out a rasping drive from City substitute Adam Johnson on 76 minutes, while Cleverley whistled a shot just over the bar at the other end. With three minutes to play the Spanish goalkeeper shot up an arm to repel a close-range Micah Richards header, although the goal wouldn’t have counted anyway: referee Phil Dowd had already blown his whistle for a foul inside the area.

The Reds then blew two late chances to win the game before Nani stole the show in dramatic fashion and saved everybody the pain of penalty kicks. It seems winning’s a hard habit to shake…

United: De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand (Jones 46), Vidic (Evans 46), Evra (Rafael 72); Nani, Carrick (Cleverley 46), Anderson, Young; Rooney, Welbeck (Berbatov 89)

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Park, Berbatov

City: Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov (Clichy 74); Milner (Johnson 67), De Jong, Toure Y, Silva; Balotelli (Barry 59), Dzeko

Subs not used: Taylor, Savic, Wright-Phillips, Aguero

good start to the season. let’s hope for more. this season, the fight would be different. there’s no scholes to pass from down the middle straight to strikers, there’s no brown or o’shea to back up our defenders, and definitely no van der sar to protect the net.. those names will be missed. will de gea be able to cope with the pressure? cleverly comes back and showed he can. phil jones looks good at the back. young was awesome on the flanks. and was happy to see smalling suiting well to the right full-back. really have lost one ever since neville becomes old.. good luck manchester united.. we shall win again.. and barca.. let’s meet again in the finals.. article from Manchester United Official Website.