News broke this morning that Michael Owen will not be given a renewed contract at United. It is an unsurprising move from Sir Alex which signals the start of what should be a busy summer. A likely departure from Dimitar Berbatov is soon to follow with Anderson, Macheda and others all facing a potential exit as we look to build a championship winning squad depth.
As for the shirt that Michael Owen leaves behind, will we see a return of a deserving name to take up the famous #7 shirt? The shirt has become synonymous with some of United’s most influential characters over the years. Cantona, Ronaldo, Best, Beckham, Robson to name but a few of those legends.
When Michael Owen got given the shirt, it wasn’t exactly a continuation of the tradition. Now that the shirt has been free’d up once again, who is most deserving of it?
For me, there is only one choice: United are a team that has always been built around it’s wingers and Valencia is head and shoulders above Nani and Young at this time. He was rewarded with his incredible work this season by scooping three gongs at the Player of the Year awards: Players’ Player of the Year, Goal of the Season and Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year. He was influential for the whole season after he returned from injury in November and was the battering ram behind United’s title attack.
I was surprised when Owen got the #7 shirt. I was a stickler for tradition and thought it was going to be handed to someone who would not play a peripheral role in the team. However, it seemed Sir Alex didn’t hold the #7 shirt in as high esteem as I did!
I would love to see the #7 tearing down the wing again. The days when Beckham, Robson or Ronaldo relentlessly ran down them are memories in part of some United’s most glorious years. A return to the fabled tradition will be welcomed and cheered by all fans.
Other candidates would be Ashley Young and Nani. I would probably give it to Nani out of the pair if only to try and boost his confidence after a season which will filled with peaks and troughs for our Portuguese star. Getting the same shirt that Ronaldo had might be the incentive that he needs to try and build his own legacy at the club.
However, maybe it could be none of the above. A new signing could potentially take the vacant shirt. With Shinji Kagawa strongly linked to United following a meeting with Sir Alex, the Japanese playmaker could be an archetypal #7 in the team, dictating movement and creating chances at a whim. This is all hypothetical, of course.
Whatever happens, I hope we see a return of a real #7 at Manchester United. Few shirt numbers in the world carry as much of a presence as the #7 at United and that needs to be recognised with someone special.