5. 1892, Newton Heath home shirt – a green and gold classic
Not so much “Green and Gold till the club is sold”, more “Green and Gold and really old”, United’s kit before we were United was a thing of beauty. Two panels, one yellow, one green, with the yellow intruding onto the green around the neckline. Long sleeves of green and yellow. And the coup de grace of this achievement in fashion, fantastic laces which were honoured by the laces kit of the 90s.
Of course it’s got some problems. There’s a slight court jester quality to it. The cuffs on the sleeves are a little “cotton traders” and presumably trying to get people to run in whatever that shirt was made of would be a big ask, but it’s a remarkably modern looking kit for something that’s over 100 years old.
Everything old is new again, and the Newton Heath kit is both historic and beautiful.
4. 1993-1995 Manchester United Away Shirt – The “Sharp Viewcam” shirt
Man, I wanted a Sharp Viewcam. For those of you under a certain age, it might be hard to conceive of the sheer technological marvel that a hand-held video camera with a flip out screen appeared to be. Nowadays the kids with their fancy phones can all take videos at the drop of a hat but in my day the Sharp Viewcam was something else.
The kit itself is fantastic. Gone are the laces, but that big collar remains. The badge is surrounded by a shield stitched in gold thread. It is a kit that instantly calls to mind Eric, who looked terrific in black.
The gold trim and lettering offsets the black perfectly, and felt like an appropriate colour choice as we began the era of dominance that would follow. United winning the league felt as unexpected and modern as those amazing cameras.
3. 1986-1988 Manchester United Home Shirt – Bryan Robson looking “Sharp”
It’s never felt quite the same since Sharp stopped sponsoring us. With the monstrosity that is the Chevrolet logo adorning the 2014/15 kit (thanks for all that money, but did it really have to be that big?), I’ve been thinking about why.
Ultimately I think it’s that “sharp” is an adjective, and a positive one at that. “Looking sharp today”. And from 1986 to 1988 we really did look sharp.
The kit is red with black, red and white Adidas stripe trim. The badge is where it should be, by the heart for maximum sentimentality. The sponsor is unobtrusive, and there’s an excellent 80s sheen to the pattern of the print.
Worn with shorts that seemed a totally normal length to people that grew up with them but now look essentially obscene, it was nonetheless a great shirt, worn in those early Fergie years as we tried to find our feet. Honourable mention to the dark blue third kit of the same era.
2. 1964-1971 Manchester United Home Shirt – A Shirt Fit For A Holy Trinity
Red. Long sleeves. White hoop collar. White cuffs. And, erm, that’s it.
But, of course that’s not it at all. It is a completely iconic kit, representing a completely iconic era. I’m sure if I was 20 years older this would be my number one. If the kit that is number one is “Cantona” then this kit is George Best. This kit is Bobby Charlton. This kit is Denis Law. This kit is Sir Matt Busby finding reserves of courage that are almost unimaginable to build a team out of the ashes of tragedy.
This kit is Manchester United.
1. 1992-93 and 1993-94 Manchester United home shirts – Eric.
I can’t chose between them and it felt ridiculous to have them both on the list as separate entries since they are from the exact same era and have so much in common.
The 92/93 kit would probably very, very slightly edge it if I had a gun to my head, as those laces are so stylish, but the smart black collar of the following season also looked terrific. There is a slightly garish quality to the pattern of the earlier shirt—the background printing of Old Trafford in the 93/94 model is is a lovely rendition of Old Trafford.
Other truly great players played in these kits, all time greats of the club like Denis Irwin and Roy Keane, but the player they represent above all others is Eric Cantona. He made them look like they had been tailored to his exact specifications. You can imagine him talking to an Umbro rep.“If I am to be at my best, I need a collar I can turn up. Trust me on this.”
The other thing that is associated with these kits is success, as United won the league in both 1992/3 and 1993/4.
And they looked really, really good doing it.