There was a time when Man United’s No7 shirt was as holy as they come.
George Best, Steve Coppell, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham had already given the number plenty of esteem before Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to the club in 2003.
The Portuguese winger asked about the availability of the No25 shirt upon arrival, the number he wore at Sporting CP, but Sir Alex Ferguson encouraged him to take the famous No7.
However, when Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009, Man United’s No7 shirt became the object of a powerful curse.
Michael Owen was the first man to follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps.
The injury-prone forward’s Liverpool links acted as a barrier between him and the fans straight from the off.
He did endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a dramatic stoppage-time winner in the Manchester derby, but he mostly popped up in the early rounds of the cups.
Dodgy hamstrings and brittle knees had sapped Owen of his explosiveness and the general feeling was that he could not longer operate at a level in accordance with expectation’s of a United forward.
And so, when Owen was shipped off to Stoke, Antonio Valencia inherited the No7 shirt.
This was the safe option.
The club must have thought that giving the number to a reliable performer who had already been a United player for three seasons would snuff out the curse in its relative infancy.
But not even the broad, toned shoulders of the Ecuadoran beast could handle the pressure.
Valencia experienced his worst season in a United shirt while burdened with the No7, underwhelming as a right-winger despite plenty of endeavour.
A year later he reverted to No25 and wouldn’t you know it, his form took a turn for the better.
Since freeing himself of the No7 shirt, Valencia has become arguably United’s most consistent outfield player, adapting to his new role at right-back with aplomb.
Surely a megastar of world football would do the trick?
Angel Di Maria was signed for just shy of £60million — back when that was worth more than just 1.3 Gylfi Sigurdssons.
The Argentine midfielder had talent in abundance and when he unveiled an audacious scoop finish against Leicester early on in his Old Trafford career, everyone thought the curse was lifted.
But it was not to be.
Di Maria’s form fell off a cliff and his confidence deserted him as a result.
After four goals in 32 appearances, United’s record signing at the time was sold to PSG and all memories of him were swept under the carpet — what a waste of money.
The latest to bewitched by the No7 shirt is Memphis Depay.
The brash, skilful, set-piece specialist arrived from PSV having plundered 22 goals from 30 league games in a title-winning season.
Like Di Maria, he had an X Factor, the potential to be a superstar.
But he was also similar to his predecessor in that he flattered to deceive.
Impressive showings in Europe were offset by anonymous displays domestically and he finished his debut season with two goals from 29 league games.
Quite the crash landing.
Since Depay’s departure to Lyon in 2016, United have sensibly kept the No7 shirt locked in a dungeon deep below the stadium.
The club have been waiting for a player capable of vanquishing the curse and harnessing the power of the number, thereby restoring it to its former glory.
Is Alexis Sanchez the chosen one of which the prophecy foretold?
Only time will tell.
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