There’s no hiding Man United fans’ love and admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo. He has without a shadow of doubt been Man United’s best right midfielder since the days of David Beckham, and they have both become iconic number 7s, alongside, of course, George Best.
But since Cristiano Ronaldo left Man United ten years ago, the five players to fill the number seven shirt have scored just 15 Premier League goals between them.
Those five consist of: Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay and at present Alexis Sanchez.
Even more staggering, Ronaldo has scored 330 goals in the same period.
The vast majority of these goals came for Real Madrid, where the Portuguese attacker bagged an incredible 311 goals in just 292 appearances. It’s safe to say Real Madrid struggled in their first season without their superstar, failing to challenge for La Liga and not being able to retain the Champions League.
La Liga betting suggests this may not be the case next season. Real Madrid have splashed the cash already this summer, with their most impressive signing being Eden Hazard from Chelsea in a deal worth more than £100m.
The most expensive of the five signings since Ronaldo was Angel Di Maria, who was brought in for no less than £57 million. However, working under Louis van Gaal did not work out, with the free-flowing winger being limited to game time and restricted on the pitch. The former Real Madrid player was shipped out after just one season with Man United, before going on to sign for PSG.
The next winger to pull on the number seven jersey was Memphis Depay, but his attitude and ability to adapt to the Premier League made his time at Man United a failed one to say the least. The Dutchman featured 33 times for Man United, contributing two goals before being sold to Lyon, where, he has got his career back on track, scoring 34 goals in 88 appearances.
The latest player to wear (for now, at least) the famous number seven shirt is Alexis Sanchez, who was brought in from Arsenal seeing Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way. The Chilean striker is rumoured to be on almost £500,000 a week, which is frightening considering his poor record the Red Devils.
The 30-year-old has scored just three goals in 32 appearances for Manchester United (20% of the 15 goals contributed since Ronaldo’s departure).
It appears as though Sanchez’s time is up at Old Trafford, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keen to give young talent a chance, reflected in his sole summer signing to date, Daniel James from Swansea.
To get Sanchez off the wage bill will be huge for the club and Ole and co will be hoping he lights up the Copa America for Chile, in order to help push through a move away from the club this summer.
Probably the most memorable moment in a number seven shirt since Ronaldo’s departure has to come from Michael Owen. Back in 2009, United were drawing 2-2 with arch-rivals Man City, and up steps former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker, Michael Owen, to score a famous winner in the 96th minute at Old Trafford.
However glorious that moment was for Man United and their fans, they would have expected plenty more of those types of occasions from their number sevens over the years. It will be interesting to see if the next player can finally lift the curse and make themselves a United legend.