Rebran9ing exercise for Antony Martia11?


When the Manchester United numbers for the coming season were announced, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s inheritance of number 9 seemed to tick a couple of logical boxes.

The Swedish striker had been 10 at previous club Paris St-Germain but United captain Wayne Rooney was never likely to surrender that. While the expected departure of Juan Mata would free up 8, we have a feeling that if that does happen then Morgan Schneiderlin is waiting to nip in. Had 7 – that most storied of United numbers – been taken away from Memphis Depay after just one season, it would have felt like a demotion but there was wiggle-room with the other number normally associated with wingers.

When Ryan Giggs retired, his famous number 11 (he didn’t always wear it, though) was passed on to Adnan Januzaj, whose move from 44 seemed to signal that he was about to take the stage in a big way. It hasn’t worked out like that for him, though, and his long-term future at the club is up in the air.

As a result, his move to 15 was, dare we say it, meritorious and the moving of Antony Martial to 11, freeing up 9 for Ibrahimovic, as he had worn with Ajax and in his under-performing stay Barcelona, had a tidy overall look. After all, the Frenchman wears 11 for his country and it appears to be a better fit with the position which suits him best.

Except, Martial himself is not a happy bunny, especially given that he had gone to the trouble of trademarking ‘AM9’. Of course, he could just follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and have a contingency plan. We’d imagine that things will get sorted and calm down once everyone’s back playing football.

Elsewhere, there wasn’t too much of note with the MUFC numbers. Apparently, 6 is being kept for Paul Pogba while centre-back Eric Bailly took 3 – blame him if you will but he wouldn’t have been able to do so if Luke Shaw hadn’t been allowed away with moving from 3 to 23. While 2 is free, Matteo Darmian is resolutely sticking with 36.

The Martial incident was discussed on BBC Radio 5’s Monday Night Club (go to 52:45), and on a tangential subject, John Motson made the point that there should be a Premier League rule as there is in Spain, that squads should be numbered 1-25. We live in vain hope.

Cymru, we love you

Our last blog post finished with the words, “Wales represent the best best chance of seeing 1-11 on the pitch together in the latter stages”, but we’ll be honest and say that it was something expressed more in hope than expectation. Their number 8, Andy King, had only featured in the final group game against Russia before last weekend’s quarter-final against Belgium, with Joe Ledley (16) clearly ahead of him in the depth chart.

That remained the case for the last-eight tie last Friday evening, but otherwise the rest of the line-up had numbers between 1 and 11 (ignore the placing of wing-backs Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor, they’re the wrong way round):

Screen shot 2016-07-05 at 10.33.55

Look, though, at the subs – with Wales having gone 2-1 ahead, King was brought on for Ledley and, gloriously, the 11 players on the pitch were those wearing the 11 lowest numbers. The numbering was that of a ‘German’ 3-5-2, with 10 (Aaron Ramsey) in midfield and 11 (Gareth Bale) up front.

The perfection only lasted two minutes as Sam Vokes came on for Hal Robson-Kanu, but Chris Coleman’s judgment couldn’t really be questioned as Vokes scored the clinching third goal. Ramsey’s yellow card means that he is suspended for the semi-final against Portugal, but fingers crossed for 1-11 again in the final.

The answer to the question you didn’t ask – the last team before Wales to field 1-11 at the European Championship was the Republic of Ireland, who started their first and third games at Euro 2012 in that fashion. Incidentally, they had done the same at Euro 88.