This was not how anybody envisioned it. United’s number seven shirt had effectively been vacant for a year after Alexis Sanchez’s loan to Inter Milan.
And with the realisation he would never play for the club again, long before his departure this summer, plans were made for the next man to wear the shirt.
The assumption before the summer was that Jadon Sancho would sign for United and take on the iconic number. It could even have helped lure him to the club.
United failed to sign Sancho, and did not sign another first team winger either, bizarrely.
Striker Edinson Cavani signed in a hastily arranged move late in the transfer window, and he has been handed the number seven shirt.
Cavani landing the seven shirt brought about some frustration on social media.
It was not directed at him, but towards the club. This only rubs in the failure to land Sancho, or another up and coming winger
With Cavani on a one year plus one with an option deal, there is a question over whether an extension may prevent United from giving to to Sancho, or another player in a year’s time.
But United cannot worry about that now. In fact it may be sensible to give up on landing Sancho in 2021 already considering how relations with Dortmund currently sit.
United have to focus on the here and now, and giving Edinson Cavani the number seven shirt can help.
Why it works
United could have done more harm than good by leaving the number seven shirt vacant.
Failures of players in the past to live up to icons like George Best, Eric Cantona, Bobby Robson, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo has bumped up the mystique around the shirt.
Players like Memphis Depay, Angel di Maria, Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen, and Alexis Sanchez have all crumbled under the pressure, for various reasons, whether it be attitude, fitness, or ability.
Cavani has the experience to handle it. In fact he will embrace it.
The Uruguayan is at United for a limited time, and he is not a project. He is here for instant success.
If United can help him by giving him the shirt he wants, lifting his confidence and showing that the club believes in him, Cavani could play his best football.
In turn, Cavani could help United rid the shirt of the stench of recent failures.
Who is to say Sancho would not have wilted under the pressure of the number seven shirt too? Making the jump to a new league is tough enough.
Add in the pressure to wipe clean 11 years of failure from the club’s various number seven’s since Ronaldo’s 2009 exit, and it could get too much.
Cavani can do a job by getting the number seven shirt back on track and restoring some pride into it.
Keeping it vacant sends the wrong message to the players, that the squad is incomplete.
If United’s players see a proper leader like Cavani wearing the number seven shirt and doing it justice, he will command even more respect than his reputation already generates.
When Cavani’s time at United is up, hopefully he can hand it over with a bit of it’s former glory, and the ghosts of the past won’t weigh so heavily on the next player.
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