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Manchester United number sevens

Following Manchester United's decision to hand Antonio Valencia the number seven shirt, Sports Mole reviews the club's five best players to wear the famous number.

It has recently been announced that Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia will wear the number seven shirt for Manchester United next season.

It would probably be fair to state that the jersey is one of, if not the most famous in world football, and that honour will be bestowed upon the 26-year-old in the new campaign.

The former Wigan Athletic star joined United in 2009, and he has scored 16 goals in 107 games for the club, but it has been his assists and direct powerful running which have made him such a key figure for the team.

He joins a long list of players to wear the number seven for the club, although some have certainly been more successful than others.

With that in mind, Sports Mole brings you the five best players to wear the iconic number seven shirt for the Red Devils:

George Best (1963-1974)

The name says it all – the winger was simply the best. His defining moment for the club came in 1968 when he scored in the European Cup final against Benfica. Meanwhile, he remains the only Northern Irish player to win the Ballon d'Or.

Aside from modern-day stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – Best is widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time alongside Pele and Diego Maradona.

He combined pace, acceleration, two-footed ability and finishing of the highest level to mark himself as a sensational player. He scored 181 goals in 474 appearances for the club and it should have been more, but unfortunately he fell out of love with the game due to his love of the playboy lifestyle.

To compare Valencia and Best would be like comparing chalk and cheese in terms of their off-the-field demeanours. It would also be unfair to expect Valencia to live up to one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

Bryan Robson (1981-1994)

When Bryan Robson made the then-British record transfer fee of £1.5m in a move to United from West Bromwich Albion in 1981, he told reporters: "Money wasn't my main motivation. I simply wanted to be a winner."

Robson in many ways is just what United currently need in the middle of their midfield. The Englishman was just the complete footballer – and had the winning mentality to match.

He was also the longest-serving captain in the club's history and scored 99 goals in 461 games, becoming the first English captain to lift the FA Cup for United. He was everything you would want from your general and defended and attacked in equal measure.

He also made 90 appearances for England, scoring 26 goals from midfield. Meanwhile, he is currently a global ambassador for United.

Eric Cantona (1992-1997)

The eccentric Frenchman received the number seven shirt after arriving from Leeds United and he quickly became "King Eric" to the club's fans. United supporters still sing his name to this day, which tells you everything you need to know about how highly he is regarded.

Many opposition fans will choose to remember him for the infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter in 1995 after he was given his marching orders and subsequent eight-month ban.

But United? They will remember him for his exceptional talent, wonderful personality and for inspiring the club to four Premier League titles, two FA Cup wins and 82 goals in 185 appearances.

David Beckham (1993-2003)

Say what you like about Beckham and his off-the-field antics, but he will forever remain as one of the greatest players to wear the number seven shirt for United.

It was the England international's celebrity lifestyle that eventually brought his United career to an end, though he remains a hero on the terraces of Old Trafford.

Along with the likes of Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – he emerged through the club's youth system and was part of the famous 'Fergie's Fledglings."

He scored 85 goals in 394 games, along the way to winning six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League trophy for the only club he ever loved.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009)

When Beckham departed United in 2003, a slight young Portuguese winger called Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the club. He made his debut in the opening game of the season against Bolton Wanderers - and it was soon apparent that he had something extremely special.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson once famously stated to a fellow manager that Ronaldo would be the best in the world "in the next three years" – and he was right. He scored 118 goals in 292 games for the club, clocking up three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and one Champions League title.

It doesn't matter that Ronaldo left United to seek pastures new, because the club's fans still appreciate him. There were many times throughout his stay when he simply pulled United through matches, and he will forever be remembered as a hero at Old Trafford.

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