Every club has a jersey number they either retire or give to special players to wear for their incredible performances.
Real Madrid has the number 7 jersey which was worn by Spanish forward, Raul Gonzalez and later, by Cristiano Ronaldo who scored 451 goals in his 9-year stay in the Spanish capital.
Ajax Amsterdam have the number 14 jersey number as their most valued treasure because for many years, it was worn by Mr. Ajax himself, the late Johann Cryuff.
It is more of a cliché that the prolific players in most teams from the club level to the national team hand the number 10 jersey to their “star players”.
Eden Hazard wears the number 10 for Belgium, Luka Modric wears the number 10 for Croatia, and Kane wears the same for England and the list goes on and on.
After the departure of Chilean international, Alexis Sanchez, the iconic number 7 jersey at Manchester United is vacant and up for grabs.
Sanchez vacated the No.7 shirt this summer after his disastrous 18-month spell with United was brought to an end by Inter Milan.
The iconic shirt has been worn by some of Manchester United’s best players- Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Can Jesse Lingard step up to the task?
Among the current list of players, Jesse Lingard is the most likely to inherit the prominent jersey number.
The England international currently wears the number 14 jersey for the Red Devils and has been a regular player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
Former Manchester United forward, Louis Saha, has expressed concerns following rumours that Lingard has been asked to take over the iconic shirt number.
Per the Express, he said:
“I mean, no disrespect, Jesse’s a player from the academy and he’s been there a long time, he understands.”
“But as I mentioned, it’s not just something that you just claim.”
“It’s something that people give to you for some reason because you now have attached to your back something that represents the club, you represent the club, the history and all that.”
“You can’t take that lightly, it’s not just about you thinking that you have the potential.”
“I don’t think that he done it seriously. When you know the history of that number, you know [there is] a responsibility.”
The underlining concern of Saha rests within the fact that the 26-year-old has, in fact, failed to score a goal or register an assist since December.
As such, he believes he cannot lead the team just as the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, and Ronaldo all did.
Is the number 7 jersey now cursed?
Since Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid in 2009, a number of players have tried and failed to live up to the very high expectations of wearing the famous number 7 shirt.
The likes of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria, and Memphis Depay struggled for goals in the shirt, while United’s current number seven, Alexis Sanchez, has only bagged twice since his arrival from Arsenal in the January window.
Owen could only find the net five times, while Di Maria and Memphis managed six goals between them in the league.
The fact that those Manchester United players who wore the number 7 have scored only 13 goals in 138 league games is actually quite shocking considering how much that shirt means to the Red Devils and what the previous owners of the shirt did for the club.
It's been 9 years since Cristiano Ronaldo left Man Utd.
In those 9 years seven players have worn the number 7 shirt, managing to score a combined 13 league goals.
Crazy. 😳 pic.twitter.com/sUd0qxNWfh
— EPL Bible (@EPLBible) September 28, 2018
What should be done?
Two obvious things come to mind on how the “curse” can be averted.
The first is that Jesse Lingard should take the bull by its horn and improve on his performances for the team.
The Lingard of 2016 is the same player we see in 2019, with no significant improvement except for a few goals that were scored at important times. Cue the winning goal in the 2016 FA Cup final and one against Southampton in the 2017 League Cup final.
The other alternative should see Man United’s CEO, Ed Woodward, scouting and buying a proven playmaker who can contribute a good share of goals and restore the glory days at the club.
The team, in honesty, lacks goals. New signing, Daniel James has been able to grab 3 goals in 4 league starts but a lot more is needed.
Although Alexis Sanchez scored just a few goals, the departure of Romelu Lukaku could be a problem and that is simply because Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have not been able to score 15 goals per season since they both got their opportunities in the first team.
Giving the iconic jersey to the Welsh man could be the start of something surprisingly new, however, it will be too much burden as he is fresh to the club.
It may be extreme to retire the shirt, but players would perhaps rather avoid picking the no.7 at Old Trafford once Sanchez has walked out the exit door.