Names like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all given the Manchester United number seven jersey a special aura!
They were all gifted heroes, who managed to capture the imaginations of the United faithful and even transcended beyond the Old Trafford terraces.
So it’s interesting to note that that particular squad number is currently without a holder in the Man Utd dressing room.
Micheal Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay all struggled with the burden of playing with such an iconic number on their backs.
Ecuadorian wingman Valencia decided to hand the number back, after struggling during the one season he was given it. While the others have all since departed Old Trafford.
So who will be the next pretender to the throne and try and break the curse?
Well, by all accounts, it looks likely to be Atletico Madrid man Antoine Griezmann.
The French forward seems to have an £85m release clause and United could be willing to pay that to get their man in the summer. It wouldn’t be ideal for Atleti as they’ve got a transfer ban to serve until 2018 but if Man United offer the release clause fee then they’ll be powerless to stop the move.
His current boss Diego Simeone didn’t seem surprised to see teams linked with a summer move for his star player:
‘It is normal that the best teams in the world want him. I am not surprised that the teams who are looking are the ones who can afford him.’
Reading between the lines, I’m inclined to think Simeone is suggesting that this could be Griezmann’s final few months at Atletico.
The Independent have reported that Antoine’s image consultant is fully behind the move, quoting Sebastien Bellencontre:
“When I read articles about a hypothetical transfer to Manchester United I think it would be the ideal commercial scenario,”
“He would play at Beckham’s former club, which is his idol, with the same legendary number on his back.”
He’s right, the proposed mega deal would probably be a publicist’s dream and create huge commercial benefits for all involved.
But the man who’ll decide if the deal makes sense will be ‘Red Devils’ manager Jose Mourinho.
Without doubt Man Utd have looked at their best when they’ve used a 4-3-3 formation. It gets the best out of Paul Pogba, it’s allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to shine and everything seems to go through the talismanic figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
At the 2016 European Championships, Griezmann ended the tournament as it’s leading goalscorer with six goals. But he was playing in the hole behind the frontman as a number ten. Now Man United started this campaign off by playing a similar 4-2-3-1 style as France had gone with at the Euros but with mixed success. That formation didn’t get the best out of Pogba and the whole side looked unbalanced.
With ‘Los Colchoneros’ the French forward has been mostly deployed as a striker in a 4-4-2 formation. Now under Jose, United have hardly ever gone with two up-top.
So it would seem that if he were to join the Old Trafford club, then he’d have to settle for a place on the wing. Now Mkhitaryan looks better on the right but so does Griezmann, who may be left-footed but he likes to cut in from the right and finish with his left. Maybe Mourinho will rotate the two on either wing until he finds which way suits the squad as a whole.
The Portuguese boss may even revert back to a 4-2-3-1 and hope Pogba can star as a central midfielder. That formation would allow Jose to keep Henrikh on the right, have Antoine in behind Zlatan and have either Marcus Ashford or Anthony Martial on the left-wing.
It’s worth noting that Manchester United seemed to play with a 4-4-2 in their recent 3-0 win over champions Leicester City. Pogba looked decent in that system and Mkhitaryan was a star on the left scoring and assisting.
Could that be a sign of things to come?
So would Mourinho want Griezmann in his squad?
I think so. He offers a confidence that Jose likes in his players. He also has a versatility that would impress the United manager. People believe that Jose Mourinho wants too much defensive effort from his forwards but in fairness Antoine is used to that working under Simeone for the last three years.
A stumbling block in any deal to bring the French attacker to Old Trafford could be Man United’s finishing position at the end of this term. They’re currently in sixth place and two points away from a vital top four Champions League spot. They’re also still in the Europa League and victory in that competition would also see them make Europe’s elite tournament next season. But if they fail in qualifying for Champions League then that could see Griezmann think twice about going to Manchester.
It’s funny because the player himself has stated that he’s always been a fan of Beckham and the United faithful will think he’s French so might instantly compare him to Cantona. But when you watch him play it’s actually more akin to watching Ronaldo or Best rather than the other number sevens; as he posses a strong direct play, an eye for goals and a speed to evade markers.
Ultimately if Manchester United can strike a deal and bring Antoine Griezmann to the club this summer, then I think he’d take the much coveted red seven jersey and make it his own and give the United fans a new hero to worship!
Posted on February 7th, 2017 by scott
Filed under: Article