Ranking every player to have worn Man Utd’s No.8 shirt in the PL era

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Manchester United's Wayne Rooney protests during their Premier League victory over West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich, March 2006.

Bruno Fernandes is the current incumbent of the famous No.8 shirt at Manchester United – but how does he rank among his predecessors?

Squad numbers weren’t a tradition in English football until their introduction near the start of the Premier League era in 1993.

And, considering United remain the most dominant side in the competition’s history despite their underachievement in the post-Ferguson era, the list of players that have worn the No.8 shirt at Old Trafford is an illustrious one.

We’ve ranked every player to wear United’s No.8 shirt from worst to best.

6. Anderson

He didn’t fulfil his huge potential but Anderson still became a cult figure at Old Trafford thanks to his showman antics…

Anderson celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Norwich City. Old Trafford, Manchester, 2010.

READ: A tribute to Anderson, Manchester United’s cult hero & great showman

5. Juan Mata

In January 2014, Mata was the man to revitalise David Moyes’ reign at Manchester United.

Having impressed at Chelsea, winning the Champions League and Europa League at Stamford Bridge, the Spain international made the £37.1million switch to Old Trafford and morphed into a very different player.

Whereas Mata had been the creative lynchpin at Chelsea, he became known for his durability at Old Trafford and made 285 United appearances between 2014 and 2022.

And his match-winning brace at Anfield, alongside being one of the nicest guys in football, cemented Mata’s place in the hearts of the United faithful.

4. Bruno Fernandes

The Portuguese playmaker has the ability to move up a place or two in this list, undoubtedly, but it’s still relatively days for Fernandes in the iconic No.8 shirt.

He spent his first two-and-a-half seasons wearing No.18 but jumped at the chance to take the No.8 shirt when Mata left and the vacancy opened up.

“That shirt means a lot [to me],” Fernandes explained in an interview with MUTV.

“There is a history behind that [number] because my father, when he used to be a player, he was playing with a number eight.

“He quit from football because he had an offer from work, and obviously at that time for me and my brothers and for all the family it was better that he had proper work than [to] keep playing football.

“[The number eight] is the number he was using for two years. Because it was also his dream [to be a footballer], it makes my dream a little bit of him.”

After suffering a dip in form last season, perhaps not coincidentally due to the presence of his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernandes has looked at his very best with his favourite number on his back.

Fernandes has been among United’s best players in the Ten Hag upswing and he may soon help end United’s seven-year trophy drought.

Anthony Martial of Manchester United (l) celebrates scoring their second goal with Marcus Rashford (c) and Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United

READ: 8 players that Ten Hag has improved at Man Utd: Rashford, Fernandes…

3. Nicky Butt

Arguably the most ‘overlooked’ member of the Class of ’92, Butt was a combative and skilful midfielder who enjoyed a glittering career.

While the Gorton-born Butt often found himself on the United bench as Ferguson preferred Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, his highlights at Old Trafford included a place in 1997-98 PFA Team of the Year and an outstanding performance in the 1999 Champions League final.

First-team opportunities became increasingly scarce for Butt, leading to the midfielder joining Newcastle in 2004, but he still made 387 United appearances and the current squad would kill for a player of his profile.

And never forget that his performances for England in the 2002 World Cup led to Pele calling him ‘the best player of the England squad’. He was much better than you remember.

2. Paul Ince

Ince may have had a turbulent relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson but the former England international was the driving force in United’s midfield during the 1990s.

After joining from West Ham in 1989, Ince won two Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, one League Cup and one UEFA Super Cup during his time at Old Trafford.

Renowned for his tough-tackling and determination, Ince was held in extremely high regard by the adoring United fans and Ferguson’s decision to sell him to Inter Milan in 1995 was a huge shock.

“I went from United to Inter Milan,” Ince told Stretford Paddock’s YouTube channel. “I didn’t want to leave United. I had been there for six years, I was just about to sign a four-year contract.

“It was United who accepted the bid from Inter Milan because they had the new training ground, they had Nicky Butt coming through and they thought it was a good deal.

“United broke my heart ’cause they allowed me to go to Inter Milan, they sold me and they broke my heart!”

1. Wayne Rooney

He only wore the No.8 shirt until 2007, but Rooney’s first three years at United contained enough genius to warrant top spot here.

From a Champions League hat-trick on his debut to ending Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run, his goal-of-the-decade contender against Newcastle and much more, Rooney was one of the most exciting footballers England had ever seen during his first years at Old Trafford.

He was almost impossible to stop…

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