The number 10 shirt has been one of the most influential in the history of Manchester United. Denis Law was one of the first to wear it with such distinction, racking up 237 goals in 404 competitive appearances for the Red Devils. Even the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best wore the number ten jersey at times throughout their United careers – Sir Bobby, in particular, when he was selected as an inside forward.
More recently, the coveted shirt has been given to some of the most iconic faces in United’s modern-day era. As squad numbers have become increasingly more permanent for some players, let’s look back at the most successful number 10s to have set the Stretford End alight in the last few decades.
It’s fair to say that Mark Hughes is something of a Manchester United legend. With two successful spells in a United shirt between 1980-86 and 1988-95, the Welshman is held in high regard at Old Trafford. Hughes managed to separate the front line of Norman Whiteside and Frank Stapleton, going on to cement the number 10 jersey as his own.
An initial six-year spell saw him catch the eye of La Liga giants Barcelona. Hughes wasn’t just capable of scoring spectacular goals of his own. He had the flair and the vision to put the ball on a plate for strike partners too. With 120 goals in 345 competitive appearances over 13 seasons, Hughes was a wonderful number 10 but perhaps didn’t get the credit he deserved having played in a less successful United team.
Former Tottenham forward Teddy Sheringham wore the Red Devils’ number 10 jersey with distinction for an impressive four seasons, taking over from David Beckham, who moved to number 7 when Eric Cantona retired. Few anticipated that Sheringham would remain at Old Trafford for so long. It’s a mark of his intelligence on and off the ball that saw him develop fruitful relationships with United’s creative outlets.
Sheringham largely wore the number 10 and 8 jersey throughout most of his career, which came to an end in 2008. Since then, Sheringham has dabbled in reality TV and a career in professional poker. He has been a prominent entrant in tournaments hosted by some of the biggest online poker rooms on the planet, which operate satellite events for European Poker Tour (EPT) tournaments that Sheringham has been heavily involved in. To date, he has won $329,475 in career earnings from poker.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Dutch powerhouse Ruud van Nistelrooy was signed from PSV Eindhoven in 2001 and took over the number 10 which Sheringham had vacated. He lived up to his £19m price tag, which was a British transfer record at the time. He racked up Premier League, League Cup, and Community Shield winners medals during his five-year spell at Old Trafford, scoring 95 goals in 150 competitive appearances.
Unfortunately, United did not manage to win a Champions League title during van Nistelrooy’s era, and eventual off-field friction between him and Sir Alex Ferguson meant that his time in Manchester was cut short in 2006.
It would be hugely remiss not to mention Wayne Rooney in this article too. Snapped up from Everton at the tender age of 18, United paid £25.6m, which was a world-record fee for a player under 20 years old. During his 13-year stay with United, Rooney epitomised the drive, passion, and undoubted ability required to be an Old Trafford icon.
Having taken number 8 initially, he inherited the number 10 shirt with pride, sometimes playing as an advanced forward and other times playing ‘in the hole’. 183 goals in 393 competitive appearances – averaging almost one goal every other game – reinforced Fergie’s faith in handing him the number 10 jersey after the likes of Sheringham and van Nistelrooy. A tough act for anyone to follow.