How will Zlatan deal with being Man United’s new number nine?
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic somewhat controversially taking the famous shirt from Anthony Martial’s back over the weekend, we thought we’d take a look back at how previous United forwards have coped with the responsibility that comes with being Manchester United’s number nine.
Arriving at the club in January 1995 from Newcastle United, Andy Cole was initially given the number 17 shirt and it took him 25 goals in a season and a half before he was deemed fit to wear the famous shirt.
Cole scored 96 goals in six seasons where he wore the number nine shirt at Old Trafford, and when he left in December 2001, it took Sir Alex Ferguson another three years to find a suitable replacement.
That player was Louis Saha, who joined from Fulham in January 2004, and while he spent a lot of his five seasons with the club out with injury, when he was fit he more than proved his worth.
Saha played a part in United’s back-to-back Premier League wins in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and also has a Champions League medal to his name.
It’s frightening to think what a fully fit Saha could have done at United but the fan favourite will always be remembered at the club where he scored 42 times in 120 appearances.
Following Saha’s move to Everton in 2008, United signed statistically one of their most prolific number nines of all time in Dimitar Berbatov.
With a goal ratio of 0.38, the Bulgarian striker played a key role in two Premier League trophies, a League Cup and two Community Shields in a four year spell at the club.
Perhaps the classiest player to wear the shirt, United fans will remember his spectacular hat-trick against Liverpool as well as the five goals he netted in one game against Blackburn and that turn against West Ham- all of which took place at Old Trafford
Following Berbatov’s departure, the number nine shirt was not occupied again until the 2014-15 campaign.
And if any player’s time wearing it can take the pressure off the shoulders of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s Radamel Falcao.
The Colombian striker could only manage four goals in 26 appearances for the Red Devils and was quickly sent packing at the end of his loan spell – even though United had the option to make the deal permanent.
And so we come to the most recent number nine – Anthony Martial.
United had to smash the transfer record fee for a teenager to secure Martial’s services, and at the tender age of just 19, a £36m price tag meant expectations were high.
And while United have had two seasons to forget, Martial was perhaps one of the only positives to come from Louis van Gaal’s time in charge of the club.
The arrival of Ibrahimovic has resulted in Martial being forced to wear the number 11 shirt, but his 17 goals in all competitions last season have meant the pressure really is on the big Swede to succeed him as number nine.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.