Manchester United and squad numbers: a brief introduction
Season-long squad numbers were made mandatory by the Premier League at the start of the 1993/94 season. Since then many players have worn many numbers at Manchester United; some wore them fleetingly, some made their number iconic and in some cases an alteration signified a change in squad status.
Several players have worn three different squad numbers since the inception of the season long one player, one number rule including Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Wes Brown but the player with the most squad number changes is David Beckham; who wore 28, 24, 10 and 7 in his time at the club.
Squad numbers in the European Cup didn’t become compulsory until the 1996/97 season (United didn’t wear them in the first game of that year’s competition against Juventus however) and for a couple of seasons led to some unusual changes from the League number list. For example in the 96/97 European campaign, Ronny Johnsen wore the number 5 rather than his League number of 19 which was free because of Lee Sharpe’s departure. Sharpe’s exit wasn’t until after squad numbers had to be registered for the League so Johnsen couldn’t take 5 once it had been assigned domestically.
Even more peculiarly – and inexplicably, in the same campaign, Paul Scholes wore 12 rather than his League number of 18 and Phil Neville the League incumbent of the number 12, wore 31 in European competition. Another inexplicable example is from the season United won the treble; Wes Brown wore 30 in Europe and 24 in the League.
The highest number worn in a competitive game for Manchester United is 50. Darron Gibson wore it when he appeared as a substitute in the League Cup 3rd Round tie with Barnet in the 2005/06 campaign.
Ryan Giggs has worn the number 11 for United since squad numbers’ introduction and it is the only number in the squad – apart from 48; currently held by Will Keane, which has only ever had a single possessor.
Manchester United: Squad number history
Notes: 18. Ferguson and 21. Martin left midway through the season.
Notes: 17. McKee, 31. Gillespie and 32. Whitworth left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 31. Prunier was on loan at United.
Notes: 15. Poborsky and 24. O’Kane left midway through the season.
Notes: 41. Wellens left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 13. Bosnich, 21. Berg, 29. Notman and 35. Healy left the club midway through the season. 14. Goram was on loan at the club.
Notes: 6. Stam left the club after only one game, leaving the number free for Blanc to take upon signing. 9. Cole left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 1. Barthez left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 19. Djemba Djemba, 21. Forlan and 32. Djordjic left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 16. Keane and 40. Ebanks-Blake left the club midway through the season.
Notes: 25. D. Jones left the club midway through the season. 17. Larsson was on loan at the club.
Notes: 14. Heinze and 40. A. Eckersley left the club midway through the season. 20. Solskjaer retired one month into the campaign.
Notes: 39. Chester left midway through the season. 42. Eikrem and 46. Stewart left midway through the season but had their vacated numbers filled. 2. G. Neville retired midway through the season.