Manchester United entered the 2001/02 season as the three time defending Premier League Champions but Sir Alex was already in the process of building his next team. The club added Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored 36 goals in his first season and would go on to even bigger things the following year, Juan Sebastián Verón and Laurent Blanc with Jaap Stam leaving during the summer and Jesper Blomqvist, Denis Irwin, Ronny Johnsen, Raimond van der Gouw, Dwight Yorke, and Andy Cole gone from the club by the following season.
Another league title was not on the cards as poor results in November and December saw the Red Devils in ninth. Results would turn around but Arsenal would eventually win the league and the Double with Manchester United finishing third behind Liverpool.
No joy was found in the cups either as Manchester United lost to Arsenal in the Third Round of the League Cup and to Middlesbrough in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. Bayer Leverkusen knocked out Sir Alex’s men in the Semi-Finals of the Champions League on away goals.
Of note this season were two notable comebacks.
Manchester United overturned a 3-0 deficit away at Spurs in the league.
The Red Devils also rescued a Third Round FA Cup tie at Villa Park with a remarkable three goals in the final 15 minutes to advance 3-2.
The change and third shirts for this season produced an interesting choice from kit manufacturers Umbro. Per Historical Football Kits:
United were one of the leading clubs that attracted considerable criticism for exploiting the replica kit market and in 2001, Umbro came up wih a novel response, creating the first reversible shirt. These were white on one side and metallic gold when turned inside out, so supporters had both away and third shirts in one purchase. The players had separate white and gold sets which were not reversible.
The change shirt saw a white chest with black sleeves and panels down the torso. Narrow white trim accent the sleeve from the armpit to the cuff. The shirt used a V neck with a collar, and gold trim was used on the collar and chest. White shorts and socks were used when needed and kept the design element around the rib cage going down most of the shorts.
Gold had not used for Manchester United’s kits previously and has not used since, with the yellow shirts of the early 70s being the closest in color. The gold change shirt was in essence a reversed out version of the white shirt, with the same collar, a narrow black band on the sleeves going all the way to the collar, and the black shorts and socks were the same as the change strip. This kit was only worn three times during the season, twice at Arsenal and for United’s away game to Olympiakos in the Champions League.
Besides the design, there are also little touches all over the shirt. Let’s start with the badge, with black replacing the red background of the standard badge and gold instead of yellow for the lettering and trim.
Above the badge is the commemorative mark for the 100th anniversary of the name change from Newton Heath to Manchester United.
The inside neck has another mark to celebrate 100 years along with the Umbro wordmark.
(images courtesy of pryoboy blog)
While the shirt is heavy due to it being reversible, this is one of my favorites, particularly the white change shirt. The celebratory basis for the shirt is significant as well and glad I pulled the trigger on the long sleeve version all those years ago.
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