George Best. Eric Cantona. David Beckham. Cristiano Ronaldo.
On the face of it, those four players have very little in common. Best was the self-confessed womaniser who, when time allowed, was also an extraordinary player – the jinking winger who would set the bar for all width-giving dribblers for decades to come.
Cantona was the Gallic maverick with whom you never knew quite what he might do next, while you knew exactly what you were getting with Beckham: pinpoint passes, crosses and set pieces from his laser-like right foot. Both were part of United’s vaunted Sharp era of shirts.
As for Ronaldo… well, you probably know all about him already.
Despite the differing styles and personalities of that quartet, they do have one characteristic that binds them – all have worn the famous number seven squad number at Manchester United.
There is nothing quirky about the number seven as far as squad numbers go, and many names have pulled on the famous jersey.
It’s a shirt that is synonymous with success throughout the Red Devils’ glory years, and there are many others who have worn the number seven with great distinction too – the legendary Brian Robson, Nobby Stiles and Andrei Kanchelskis are just a trio of others.
The current incumbent of the shirt is Alexis Sánchez, a player who many would easily forget even belongs to Manchester United so little has he featured in the first-team picture. It seems likely that the Chilean will leave the club in the near future, and that would of course free up the number seven squad number once more.
It’s an accolade that doesn’t come easy, with former captain Antonio Valencia once switching from seven to 25 as it helped him feel more at ease not wearing the feted jersey.
Somebody will, presumably, be given Sanchez’s peg in the dressing room this summer, so who are the contenders to take on the poisoned chalice as Manchester United’s lucky number seven?
Young, English and supremely talented, there will be no shortage of suitors lining up to sign Jadon Sancho – both at home and abroad.
The 20-year-old has been a revelation once more for Borussia Dortmund this term, adding goals to his impressive collection of assists and proving that – despite his fledgling years – he has an experienced head on young shoulders.
The title race is all but over according to bookmakers’ German Bundesliga outright betting odds, with Dortmund as long as 34/1 on June 1 with Betway – there is even a ‘without Bayern’ market. With BVB perennially playing second fiddle to the champions, who appear to be an unstoppable force since Hans-Dieter Flick took over as head coach in December, how long will Sancho be satisfied as the bridesmaid rather than the bride?
According to tabloid tittle-tattle, Manchester United actually head the queue for the forward’s signature, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to move heaven and earth to give the Old Trafford the marquee signing they crave.
And the number he wears at Dortmund currently? Number 7, of course…
The number 7 shirt at Manchester United is perfect for the big-money signing that really gets the fans talking, and Philippe Coutinho would certainly fit that bill despite his former Liverpool allegiances.
The Brazilian has been hawked around by his agent of late having failed to really settle at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and it is likely that a return to English football is on the cards.
He could re-join Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering outfit on Merseyside, but there’s no guarantee that his former manager would be sweet on the return of a player he has already sold once.
There is some life in the Coutinho-to-United rumours, and for the purposes of this article, it is worth noting that the midfielder wore the number seven shirt for a while at Barcelona.
Since January, few Premier League players have shone quite as brightly as Bruno Fernandes.
United forked out a reported £70 million to sign the Portuguese playmaker, and occasionally such lofty price tags can be something of a death knell for a player.
But Fernandes has revelled in his status, and he has already established himself as a high-quality performer who could become a modern great at Old Trafford.
He was handed the number 18 shirt on his arrival at the club, and in the past has tended to favour the number 8. But would he be tempted to slip into the famous number 7 should Sánchez leave the club as expected?
Of all the current Manchester United squad, it is arguably Marcus Rashford who most embodies the spirit of the number seven. He’s a local with the world at his feet, and he could be the player who leads United into an exciting new era.
Rashford currently occupies the number 10 shirt, so would he want to make the switch?
One thing that is for sure is that whoever takes on the squad number will have some mighty boots to fill.