Manchester United forwards Antony and Jadon Sancho are battling over who will get to wear the iconic No.7 shirt at Old Trafford when Cristiano Ronaldo eventually leaves the club in advance of next season, according to reports.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s current deal is set to expire at the end of the campaign and he is not expected to sign a new one, with the 37-year-old keen on finding a new challenge over the coming weeks and months.
There is a chance that Ronaldo could be sold by United for a nominal fee in January, while he may also stay until the summer before leaving on a free transfer at the end of his contract. It seems as though some at United are already planning ahead for a future without Ronaldo, who will be forced to vacate his traditional No.7 shirt upon his departure.
The likes of Antony and Sancho have emerged as the two main candidates to inherit the jersey if Ronaldo moves on as expected before the start of next season, according to the Manchester Evening News.
The former will be aiming to keep delivering for the Red Devils over the course of the current campaign in order to make his case for the shirt in the event it becomes available in the not-too-distant future.
Antony wore the No.7 at Sao Paulo back in 2018 but predominantly sported the No.11 at Ajax prior to his big-money move to United over the summer. The Brazilian winger will be desperate to get a successful season under his belt in order to justify a switch to No.7 next year, but whether or not he will be able to deliver the goods and live up to his £85 million price tag remains to be seen as of yet.
Sancho is another realistic option to pick up Ronaldo’s old shirt at the end of the campaign after wearing the No.7 during his time at Borussia Dortmund. He has also been at United for a year longer than Antony, which could potentially swing proceedings in his favour when it comes to deciding next season’s squad numbers further down the line.
Both players certainly have the trickery and flair to suit the No.7 jersey, but many others before them have failed to perform under the weight of the number on their backs. The likes of Michael Owen, Memphis Depay and Angel di Maria have all struggled to deliver after being handed the shirt in previous seasons, while Antonio Valencia famously asked to change back to his old number following a sharp decline in form after taking on the burden in 2012.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen when Ronaldo will decide to call time on his second spell at United after trying and failing to secure a move elsewhere during the summer months. Jamie Carragher recently insisted that Erik ten Hag’s rebuilding job cannot truly begin until Ronaldo leaves Old Trafford as the Red Devils aim to rejoin the Premier League’s elite over the coming months and years.
“I think it’s better for him to go because he wants to go, he feels that himself, it’s pretty obvious,” Carragher told Sky Sports back in August.
“I just feel with Ronaldo, this big change of culture, quality, whatever United need to get on that path to chase down Liverpool and City over the last couple of years and start that building process, it feels like it can’t really start while Ronaldo’s there.
“Just because of the presence of the man, the age of him as well. It just feels like they need to be bringing in the next Ronaldo rather than the old Ronaldo.”
- An Express report