Why Mason Mount Makes Perfect Sense As Manchester United's Number Seven

Fans have questioned the move, but it's the right one
17:01, 06 Jul 2023

Mason Mount is Manchester United’s new number seven. The feted digit has been worn by George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford. It is perhaps the most vaunted number in English football, such is the importance attached to it. You may think being handed the iconic integer is putting undue pressure on Mount to succeed. But the England international is actually the ideal choice to take on the famous shirt.

Let’s get something out of the way first. Yes, the Red Devils’ seven has been worn by some of the greatest talents to grace the Theatre of Dreams. It has also, however, been worn by talents as diverse and inconsistent as Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Alexis Sanchez, Memphis Depay and Angel Di Maria. The shirt shouldn’t weigh as heavy considering in recent times, depending on what you think of Ronaldo’s terrific-to-toxic return, Edinson Cavani may have been the best player to wear it. A solid signing in his first season, sure, but they won’t be adding him to the Trinity statue with Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law any time soon.


But the reality is that football fans more than most have a way of ignoring the bad and focusing on the good. At United in particular, who have now gone ten seasons without a Premier League title, there are misty eyes clouding those rose-coloured glasses. Valencia and Sanchez’s struggles in the seven top have faded into the background, barely audible over clips of Beckham scoring free kicks or Cantona chipping flailing goalkeepers.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Since Ronaldo abandoned the number seven jersey last season in a hail of bitter, Piers Morgan-coaxed invective, United fans have wanted a new man to wear it. They are fairly unanimous, at least online, on who it should be. Youth product Alejandro Garnacho, the free-wheeling Argentina international who burst into the first team last season, is the popular choice.

On the surface, it’s easy to see why. After starring in the club’s 2021-22 FA Youth Cup win, netting twice in the final, Garnacho made 34 first team appearances last term. An injury time winner against Fulham and an assist for Marcus Rashford to beat City 2-1 in the Manchester derby further endeared him to the Red faithful. The 19-year-old seems to tick all the boxes. He’s flashy like the nascent days of Ronaldo. He carries a streak of arrogance not unlike Cantona. His tenacity could be mistaken for Robson. The recipe is a little undercooked but the ingredients are there.

However there are ingredients Garnacho does lack. Timekeeping is reportedly one of them, with manager Erik ten Hag having to sanction him for lateness on occasion. That same cocksure confidence has also reportedly riled his coach at times. Finally there is common sense. Garnacho hastily removed an Instagram post during United’s FA Cup win over Fulham when a vape pen was spotted next to him on the sofa as he watched from home injured.


These are all minor infractions of course. Nothing that should derail a highly promising career. But they are also an early taste of the pressures of professional football. While Garnacho is adjusting to the step up from the relatively incognito world of age group football to the harsh glare of the pro game, he does not need any undue pressure. The number seven shirt is the epitome of such pressure. Suddenly your every move is scrutinised and contextualised in the wake of those who went before you. “He’s no Beckham”. “Ronaldo wouldn’t have done that”. The number seven shirt may well be in Garnacho’s future, but it is in his best interests to keep it out of his present.

The pressure is arguably increased by the fact it is Ronaldo who last wore the number seven shirt. When United were on their Owen-Valencia-Di Maria-Depay-Sanchez run, it wasn’t hard to be viewed as an improvement. One was always injured, one saw their performances plummet and the other three never performed in the first place. But once Cavani restored respect in the shirt, before having it unceremoniously robbed by Ronaldo, the pressure increased.

Imagine for a moment United’s rumoured centre forward signing took up the mantle. They would find themselves subject to direct comparisons with Ronaldo. His goal record would be stacked up against CR7, a man so synonymous with the number that it forms his brand. Anything less than the 24 goals in 38 games the Portugal international managed in his only full season back at Old Trafford would be seen as failure.  

This is one of the reasons Mount is an inspired choice. He is a completely different positionally and stylistically. The midfielder won’t be compared to Ronaldo because there is simply no comparison to make. Their metrics are completely different by design. Amusingly, one Twitter user commenting on the club’s official post about Mount receiving the number seven wondered openly about why a central midfielder would be given the number at all. It certainly didn’t do Bryan Robson any harm…

As well as avoiding Ronaldo comparisons, Mount is also down-to-Earth and broad-shouldered enough to take on the responsibility. A Champions League winner and England international, the ex-Chelsea man isn’t easily overawed. While the likes of Valencia blinked in the light this shirt gives off, Mount seems ready to relish the challenge.

As sacrilegious as this view may be, it really is just a shirt. Cantona and Best didn’t bewitch us because of the digit they carried on their back. They did so because they were two of the most thrilling footballers this country has ever encountered. If Mount propels United to greater heights, it won’t be because he’s the number seven. Club legend Paul Scholes did his best work in the number 18 shirt before switching to number 22. Roy Keane made the decidedly unfashionable number 16 famous at Old Trafford. The number is truly what you make of it. Now it is up to Mason Mount to make United’s number seven his own.

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