Roy Keane has revealed in his new autobiography The Second Half that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t want David Beckham to inherit the famous Manchester United No.7 shirt after Eric Cantona retired.
As published by the Daily Mail, Keane’s quotes claim that Sir Alex wanted to give him the iconic number following Cantona’s departure from the club, rather than hand it to Beckham, who was at the time just beginning what would become an illustrious career.
The latest excerpt from Keane’s fiery book will be one of the most interesting for United fans, as Beckham is now seen as one of the club’s most famous wingers. The No.7 shirt in question has an esteemed lineage which includes the likes of George Best and Bryan Robson, but Keane has suggested that after Cantona, Ferguson was very clear on who he wanted it to go to.
“The captaincy is important, but squad numbers can have an importance. At United, ‘7’ was the iconic number,” Keane revealed.
“When Eric Cantona left there was a debate about who was going to be the next captain. I was quite relaxed about it.
“But there was his number, too - '7'. Bryan Robson had had it before Cantona and, of course, it went back to Georgie Best.
“The manager pulled me into his office and said that he wanted me to wear the '7'.
'I said, ‘No, I’m not that bothered.'
“And he said, "I know Becks will f****** want it and I don’t want him to have it."
Beckham and Ronaldo
When looking back on things few can criticise the legacy Beckham left in the shirt. The set-piece specialist became a fan favourite prior to his move to Real Madrid, and his influence with the fabled Class of ‘92 has become the stuff of club folklore.
That being said his eventual exit to the Santiago Bernabeu birthed the rise of Cristiano Ronaldo as United’s next No.7, and there’s hardly a football fan alive who can’t tell you how well he fared. The Portuguese forward ranks amongst the most talented players ever to have donned a United shirt, and currently holds the Ballon d’Or thanks to his efforts with Madrid.
The No.7 shirt now
After Ronaldo the jersey went to Michael Owen, who was hired by Sir Alex on a pay-as-you-play basis after running down his contract with Newcastle. Next up was Antonio Valencia, though the Ecuador winger struggled to enjoy the same sort of success as the previous owners of the shirt.
At the end of last season Valencia opted to vacate the No.7, opting instead to return to his preferred No.25 as the pressure proved too much. Enter Angel Di Maria.
The Argentina international, fresh from his club-record move from Spain this summer, was handed the No.7 by Van Gaal, and has subsequently restored it to its former glory with his performances so far. Three goals in his first give Premier League games, as well as consistently brilliant performances, have given United fans cause for belief that Di Maria might just be on the best acquisitions in a long time.