Manchester United has been the home had some of the Premier League’s greatest forwards, yet they’ve still had mixed success when it comes to the No.9 shirt.
The No.7 and No.10 shirts are viewed with more reverence at Old Trafford, although they have still had a number of quality players to lead the line in the No.9.
We’ve ranked every player to wear the No.9 shirt for United in the Premier League era.
Proudly last-placed in both this and Chelsea’s No.9 ranking. Given Falcao has proven himself to be one of Europe’s finest goalscorers when fit and firing, we’re genuinely sad we didn’t get to see him anywhere near his best in England.
The first player to wear the No.9 for United in the Premier League, McClair’s best days for the club were pre-1992, when football didn’t exist.
From moving to Old Trafford in 1987 to the end of the final season of the old First Division, McClair scored 101 goals in all competitions for United, including hauls of 31, 21 and 25 in single campaigns.
From the advent of the Premier League to 1998, when he finally left United for Motherwell, McClair scored just 26 goals in all competitions, failing to register double figures once.
This might initially seem like a harsh ranking, but English football had arguably seen the best of Saha by the time he left Fulham for the Red Devils.
At Craven Cottage, the Frenchman fired Fulham to promotion with 27 goals and took the Premier League by storm the following season, scoring twice in his first appearance at that level with the Londoners – which just so happened to come at Old Trafford.
But while Saha showed glimpses of his considerable talent after joining United in 2004, injuries denied him the chance to do so on a consistent basis, and he failed to reach double figures in a single Premier League campaign, scoring 42 goals in four and a half years.
When Lukaku broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record by scoring 10 goals in his first nine appearances for United, he appeared to be heading right to the top of this list.
While his goalscoring rate slowed down, the Belgian still bagged 27 in all competitions in his debut season, only for a lack of form, fitness and United’s general existential crisis under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to ultimately end his Old Trafford career after just two seasons.
He did still manage to match Saha’s goal tally in less than half the time, mind.
Martial remains an impossible player to judge. After moving to England as a teenager amid cries of, “How much?!” from your dad, he looked the real deal as United’s No.9 after announcing himself with that wonderful goal against Liverpool on his debut.
He continued to carry United alongside Marcus Rashford under difficult circumstances in Louis van Gaal’s final season in charge, only to be stripped of the No.9 upon Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival in the summer.
Martial and Mourinho were never likely to click, and the France international proved inconsistent and at times infuriating while deployed as a winger under the Portuguese.
Now 23 and back in the No.9 shirt as United’s central striker, it feels like now or never for Martial, who is evidently outrageously talented when in the mood.
Ibrahimovic basically stole the No.9 shirt from Martial after joining United on a free transfer to spearhead Mourinho’s attack.
Moving to England at the age of 34, Ibrahimovic bagged 27 goals in all competitions, including the winner in the Community Shield and a crucial brace in the League Cup final.
A serious knee injury ended his first season prematurely, and by the time he re-signed for a second year and returned to fitness he was no longer the main man following the arrival of Lukaku.
Still, that first season was a sight to behold. As he said himself in typically Zlatan style: “I conquered England. It took three months.”
A few players on this list could be described as enigmas, but perhaps none more so than Berbatov.
The Bulgarian’s laissez–faire attitude could have been an awkward fit under the take-no-bullshit management of Sir Alex Ferguson, but he thrived at Old Trafford, winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot in 2010-11 and helping fire the Red Devils to two Premier League titles.
“Ferguson knew, not only with me, that if you give freedom and confidence to the player to do the things he can – but at the right moment – it’s beneficial for the team,” Berbatov told The Independent in May 2019.
121 goals in 275 appearances, five league titles, two FA Cups, a Champions League, 24 goals in the Treble season.
Andy Cole may never have been the perfect footballer, but he was a f*cking good No.9.
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) July 7, 2017