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Manchester United’s new number 9

by Sam Peoples

Since the departure of Dimitar Berbatov, the No. 9 shirt has been left vacant by Manchester United.

Along with the No. 7 and No. 11 shirts, the No. 9 has become somewhat of a symbol by fans but Berbatov bucked the trend regarding the style of play of the shirt owner.

The Bulgarian was often languid in his style and although he scored some great goals for United, his style of play did not appease some fans who couldn’t look past his lazy side, something which is not typical of a traditional No.9.

United’s list of strong, physical No. 9’s goes back many years with the likes of Bobby Charlton, Joe Jordan, Andy Cole and Brian McClair all donning the shirt at one point or another but it is Denis Law who has perhaps come to define the shirt.

The Scotsman, who signed for United for a then British record fee of £115,000 managed to score 237 goals in 404 games for United in an 11 year spell where he helped United to two First Division titles, the FA Cup and that elusive European Cup back in 1968.

Arguably the striker who has come closest to Law was Andy Cole, another who went on to play for both sides in Manchester.

Cole joined United off the back of a wonderful spell at Newcastle where he scored 68 goals in 83 matches, highlighting him as one of the burgeoning talents of the English game but the England man was nowhere near as clinical when he joined the reds.

In his first three seasons with United, he scored 38 goals. In one season alone at Newcastle he scored 41. During moments in the 1995-96 season, Cole was left out of the side in favour of a young Paul Scholes but Cole did earn back his place and showed his true colours when partnered with Dwight Yorke.

Comparitively, another frustrating striker within the United side at the moment is Danny Welbeck, who could lay claim to the No. 9 shirt. Welbeck is another who is not as prolific as fans would like but much of this is down to the fact he has often found himself on the left wing.

When played in his favoured position last season, Welbeck managed to score six goals in six games, highlighting that if given a run in his favoured position, he will build up the confidence to put chances away but with Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and arguably even Juan Mata in his way, Welbeck will find it tough to start regularly.

However, there is a certain youngster who is set for a fantastic career at United who is a strong candidate for the shirt – step forward James Wilson.

Should Wilson nail down a first team position in the squad, which will almost certainly happen this year dependent on how well he gets on during pre-season, then the Biddulph born striker could be given the No. 9 shirt.

Wilson was outstanding in a year he was named Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year having scored 24 goals in 30 matches at Under-18/19/21s level and a brace on his debut for the first team announced him onto the scene.

It would not be a case of sentiment handing the famous shirt to the youngster but a case of practicality. There would be no need to spend big when you have someone at the club who could nail down a first team spot in years to come and if he does, give him a shirt he deserves.

Image: Twitter/RedMancunian

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