Manchester United is a club with a rich history, formed by the world’s best players to ever play the game. However, #7 holds a special place in United’s history with the club leaders usually wearing this number. The list is ranked according to each player’s impact on United, regardless of the rest of their careers.
#3 – David Beckham
David Beckham was a poster boy for football at the turn of the millennium. Often underrated for his activities off the pitch, Beckham was something else on it. He presented himself to the world by scoring from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996. The goal was later rated by Sky Sports as the best opening day goal in the Premier League history.
He immediately helped his team regain the Premier League title, and was also voted as the PFA Young Player of the Year in the 1996/97.
However, as time would show, Beckham, strived for more. David Beckham became an absolute legend in the 1988/99 season. He was a key part of United’s treble-winning team. When the team was trailing to Tottenham in the last league match, needing a win to secure it, Beckham took it upon himself to tie the score with a beautiful curler. His team would do the rest as United secured their 5th league title under Ferguson.
Soon after, Manchester United found themselves losing to Bayern in the stoppage time of the Champions League finals.
Two corners in stoppage time from Beckham – two goals that resulted in one of the most unlikely and historic wins in the Champions League history.
England’s best right foot played another incredible season in 1999/00 where United won the title yet again, thanks to an 11-win run at the end of the season where Beckham scored five goals.
However, Beckham’s relationship with Ferguson fell apart as soon as the blonde winger/midfielder got married to Victoria, which took a lot of focus off of football for Beckham. Even though United won a couple of more leagues, with Beckham playing some quality football, the relationship was in a pitfall, and it was for the best when he moved to Real Madrid in 2003/04.
#2 – Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo arrived to wear one of the heaviest #7’s you could take on. He was supposed to replace David Beckham at just 18 years of age.
However, what nobody except Alex Ferguson, perhaps not even Ronaldo himself, knew is that Ronaldo was destined for greatness from the day one.
Sir Alex Ferguson shaped the irresponsible winger who would rather dribble than move the ball to a deadly machine destroying everything in its path. This prompted three consecutive league titles between 2007 and 2009, with Ronaldo winning the PFA Player of the Year twice.
This prompted a move to Real Madrid, where the Portuguese became one of the all-time greats.
#1 – Eric Cantona
The undisputable number one and a symbol for Manchester United’s number 7 shirt. King Eric joined when United was on a 26-year run without a title in the top English division. Sir Alex Ferguson was facing heavy pressure, not being able to make a league impact since his arrival in 1986. However, once Cantona hit the pitch, things turned around 180 degrees.
Ten points clear on the top of the table.
Cantona was the key factor, given that the French serial winner won three leagues in a row – with three different clubs! Before bringing glory to Manchester, Cantona won the league with Leeds the season before, and with Marseille in 1991. In the following season, Cantona was given the PFA Player of the Year award. He was United’s top scorer with 25 goals to his name, despite facing a 5-match ban after receiving two consecutive red cards.
Despite all of that, Cantona helped United retain the Premier League title to go along with the FA Cup trophy. However, Cantona’s most (in)famous moment as a player arrived at January 25, 1995.
While United was hunting their third successive Premier League title, Cantona was sent off against Crystal Palace away. While he was walking toward the tunnel, one of the fans started heavily insulting him from up-close, which resulted in Cantona’s kung-fu kick toward the provoking fan. Obviously, this caught the wind in the English/World media which in turn resulted in Cantona getting a ban until the end of the season, effectively ending United’s hopes of retaining the title.
Cantona returned in style, winning the title with United in 1996/97 season while being the club’s top scorer with 14 league goals while scoring the winner in the FA Cup final against Liverpool.
Cantona was always perceived as a different breed among footballers. This was proved in 1997/98 when he shocked the world by retiring at just 30 years of age.
A character like no other, deadly goalscorer (82 goals in 5 seasons), and a man who introduced Manchester United to the new era of success and prosperity with his charisma both on and off the pitch.