Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams will be sporting new numbers on the backs of their Manchester United shirts this season. The club announced Friday that Greenwood will be donning the number 11 shirt with Williams switching to 33.
Greenwood is set to become the latest youngster to try and fill the proverbial shoes of the number 11 shirt since Ryan Giggs wore it from the literal advent of squad numbers until 2014. Adnan Januzaj was first to take the mantle but flamed out quickly, while Anthony Martial was always more keen to sport the number 9.
It’s Greenwood’s second squad number “upgrade” in as many years, having moved from 54 to 26 last season.
The nature of squad numbers has rendered the actual numbers pretty much irrelevant. Cristiano Ronaldo donned the 7 shirt of right wingers but often turned up on the left. Ryan Giggs regularly moved to the right and finished his career in central midfield. Robin van Persie wore number 20. George Best is famously remembered as a “great number 7” even though he hardly ever wore that number for United (only 30 percent of his United matches).
Nevertheless, squad numbers do function as a message from the manager. Greenwood and Angel Gomes were “upgraded” from 54 and 47 to 26 and 28 respectively last preseason — a sign that they were in the manager’s plans for the upcoming season.
Brandon Williams going from the academy level 53 to 33 establishes him as firmly in the first team squad, but at the backup level — exactly where he should be — while Greenwood going to 11 tells the world he’s right up there fighting for first choice minutes.
I just hope you haven’t already bought a Greenwood 26 shirt for this year.
In other squad number news, United’s no. 39 is still no. 39.