Strip Club–Sky Box Edition
For Manchester United, white or blue was the typical away kit over the years, with a yellow based strip occasionally thrown in, but in 1993 everything changed. The Red Devils introduced the all black away kit, which has produced a stylish edge to their collection over the last 20 years.
Building on their first league title since 1968, the Reds went on to win their first league and FA cup double, a feat that had not been done since Arsenal in 1971. Unfortunately, involvement in the Champions League did not last long. After drawing 3-3 with Galatasary at Old Trafford, the Reds traveled to Istanbul, where the hosts held them to a scoreless draw and gave them an away experience they would never forget.
The following season saw them come up short on three major fronts, finishing second to Blackburn in the league, losing the FA Cup to Everton 1-0, and getting knocked out of the Champions League at the Group Stage after heavy defeats away to FC Barcelona and IFK Gothenburg.
The kit itself was sweet. In my limited experience in soccer at the time, I had not seen a black jersey, but when I saw Cantona and Co. run out in the black strip with yellow and blue highlights, I knew I wanted one. Sadly, I have never picked one up. I have had a couple of chances on ebay but have never pulled the trigger.
The next time the black kit appeared was the magical Treble season, although for the life of me, I can’t remember them even wearing it except for maybe the Charity Shield.
If you don’t know the story of the season, stop reading this and get researching. That campaign had everything–narrow defeats, crushing victories, sumptuous games (especially the games against FCB in the Champions League), one of the greatest goals ever scored, and of course the most dramatic finish ever to any game, Solskjaer against Bayern Munich.
Of the black kits, this is my least favorite. Might be the neon green trim, might be the Umbro logo being a touch too big, might be the collar. Just something about the strip does not do it for me.
Next up is the all black kit from 2003-2005, which saw several key events in the history of the club and the Premier League—the Invincibles of Arsenal, the sale of David Beckham, the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, the sale of the club to the Glazers, and the rise of Abramovich’s Chelsea. The 2003-04 season was the first of three in a row in which they did not win the league, finishing third behind the unbeaten Arsenal and Chelsea, but the Reds did win the FA Cup, beating Millwall 3-0, their 11th and last one to date. In the Champions League, they won their group before losing to Porto in the first knockout round, partly due to Howard’s flub in injury time, which allowed Porto to progress and win the competition, launching the phenomenon of the Special One.
The following season Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea and led them to their first league title in 50 years. United finished third again despite a late surge in the winter months, but back to back defeats in April to Norwich and Everton ended their hopes. The Red Devils reached the FA Cup Final, which Arsenal won on penalties. A pair of 1-0 defeats to AC Milan knocked United out of the Champions League again at the first knockout hurdle.
The jersey is simple, with, as the Pride of Manchester Website notes, A ‘watermarked’ flower pattern adds a nice touch to the jersey. The only drawback of the kit is that the collar, which has an understated white accent, is a little too wide. I received this kit as a gift and it’s a size too big which takes away from my enjoyment of it. If it was the correct size, I would wear it all the time.
Two years later the black kit was back, this time during a successful campaign for the Reds. Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, Nani and Carlos Tevez arrived to strengthen the squad, which ended with a European Double. Manchester United won their 16th league title, surging past Arsenal and holding off Chelsea at the end. The Blues would be their opponent in the in the first all English Champions League Final. An early CR7 goal was cancelled out by Lampard and the game remained scoreless through the second half and extra time, in which Drogba got sent off. Looked like all was lost when Ronaldo missed his spot kick, but England’s Brave John Terry slipped on his kick and it hit the post. Anelka, the seventh kicker for Chelsea, stepped up with a chance to extend the shoot out but Edwin van de Sar saved it, and Manchester United were European Champions for the third time.
The range of kits for this campaign is one of the best ever. Each jersey is classy, with the black kit keeping things simple with red piping across the shoulders and a white stripe down the back. Love this kit and need to get my hands on one.
The fall of 2009 was year one of ACR (After Cristiano Ronaldo), and it saw good fights on all fronts but only one trophy—the Carling Cup. Wayne Rooney had a phenomenal season, scoring 34 goals but it wasn’t enough as Chelsea reclaimed the league and won the FA Cup as well. United finished second in the league and lost early to Leeds in the FA Cup, which launched the career of Jermaine Beckford, and by career I mean decent transfer fee and disappearance from English football. In the Champions League, Rafael’s sending off against Munich in the second leg set up a tense finish, which was decided by a fantastic effort for Arjen Robben.
The following year was jammed packed with success, drama and a large dose of reality. Results before Christmas were mixed as the Rooney contract saga played itself out. Eventually Wazza got onside and flourished with Chicharito, who had arrived in the off-season, and by the end of the season he had moved past Berba in the pecking order and scored an early goal against Chelsea that all but sealed the title, the 19th title that took United ahead of Liverpool. A possible treble was on as well, but defeat in the FA Cup semis to the blue side of Manchester (thanks Michael Carrick) and a masterclass from FCB in the Champions League Final meant that the Red Devils only won a single trophy and revealed the gap between the champions of England and the champions of Europe.
The home kit was an homage to the early 1920’s, and this away kit takes it a step further with the black kit and royal blue chevron. I hated it at first but it has grown on me. In the first year, the sponsor was AIG, while in the second, it was Aon. The material of the kit is amazing and weighs almost nothing. If I come across it on the web at reduced price, I might pick it up.
Special thanks to . . .
AboutManUtd.com was bills an online encyclopedia of Manchester United that broke down each campaign by competition, including all player appearances and a season recap. The site helped me jog the memory for each season and set me on my way for research. It is now only via an app. Take a look.
YouTube. What a treat to relive amazing moments in the history of Manchester United. Sometimes the quality isn’t awesome but it gets the job done.
Finally, for another opinion, check out Bleacher Report’s Top Ten Manchester United kits.