Sunday, 29 November 2009

1939-1946: The Second World War & Beyond

On September 3rd, 1939, war was declared. The Football League was suspended the following day, although a system of regional leagues and cup competitions was established soon afterwards.

United took part in the Western Region War League during 1939-40, where they finished in fourth place. It was to have been the first Football League season where all teams were required to wear numbered jerseys after the FA had made them compulsory following a number of seasons of experimentation. Presumably clubs wore numbered kits in the regional leagues too, but the first match in which United's players adopted numbered shirts is currently a mystery.

Despite a number of famous names - Such as the great Stanley Matthews - appearing as guests for United during the war years, very few photographic records exist of the time. In fact, the only other period with such scant photo evidence to use for our purposes is the pre-1900s Newton Heath era.

Due to the onset of clothes rationing, we can only presume that the club continued to outfit the players in the kits worn in the years prior to the war, perhaps with numerous repairs and individual kits being supplied to replace those that were beyond such measures. It is very unlikely that a whole new set of kits would have been purchased during this time.

The few photos that we do have are of the MUJAC teams of 1943-44. Although in later years they wore slightly different jerseys than the first team, here they are wearing the same kits that the senior players took to the pitch in during the late 30s, albeit in very poor condition!:

May, 1944 - the MUJAC

May, 1944 - the MUJAC

As well as the youth teams above winning the Wythenshaw League Junior Cup and the Rusholme League Amateur Cup, during the course of the war, the first team won the Lancashire War Cup in 1940/41 and 1942/43, the second League North Championship in 1941/42.

The main event during this time, however was the bombing of Old Trafford. The ground was located on the edge of the industrialised Trafford Park where munitions were being manufactured for the British armed forces. It was an obvious target for the Luftwaffe and was bombed many times. On the night of March 11th 1941, German bombs hit the Main Stand, causing a great deal of destruction. James Gibson was devastated, but Manchester City were quick to offer him a solution. United were to share with City, playing home games at Maine Road. From this arrangement, City made a good amount of money, charging a rent of around £5,000 per season as well as a cut of the gate receipts. For United, they really had no other choice but to accept these conditions and so Maine Road became the temporary home of the Reds until the summer of 1949.

Matt Busby officially became Manager of United in October 1945. He had previously played for rivals City and Liverpool (who had also wanted him to join them in a management role after the war) and captained Scotland during war-time friendlies. It was Louis Rocca (again) who had sought out Busby and recommended him to James Gibson. The Chairman and Busby met in Trafford Park in February of 1945 while the Scot was still with the Army Physical Training Corps. After Busby convinced Gibson to relinquish total control over team affairs to him (something practically unheard of at the time), the contract was signed there and then. Shortly afterwards while in Italy with his Army team, Busby met Jimmy Murphy and offered him the job as his assistant. The seeds of success had been sewn.

The Football League was not revived immediately after the war ended, instead the main competition in the 1945/46 season was the FA Cup, which for that season made each tie two-legged. United beat Accrington Stanley in their first tie but were knocked out by Preston North End in the next round.

During the 1945/46 season, they were photographed in shirts that look slightly different than those worn previously. I cannot decide whether they were of a different style or simply a repair job with laces used to replace missing buttons. Further photographs will be needed to confirm this.

Manchester United 1945-46 team photograph

Manchester United 1945-1946 Home kit

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A New Resource for United Fans

As I have been working on this blog, I have also been collaborating with Paul Nagel on a website on United kits. It is designed as a more accessible resource for United fans and people with an interest in football and kit history.

It has been a long time in the works now, but we've finally launched it at

Credit for the text and build of the site is due to Paul, who I think has done a fantastic job. is much easier to navigate than this blog, with links to each individual season, with each page containing a brief review of the events of the season and images of all the kits worn in that season. Within each season page is a link to photographic evidence (where it exists) and notes about how we've interpreted that evidence (in the case of black and white photographs). In future months, as we add more kits we intend to also have information on shirt numbering and replica versions etc. is not designed to replace this blog, but to compliment it (and visa-versa) I will continue to post here as I have been doing and all the larger full-res images and photographs will continue to be linked to here. Enjoy.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

1934-1939: Fortunes Revived

After their flirtation with relegation to the Third Division in 1933/34, the following summer United strengthened with the signings of players such as inside forward George Mutch. After a difficult start to 1934/35, they soon went on to launch an unlikely promotion campaign. A run of eight successive wins put United in second place by mid November and by January they were still in the running. They even managed to get past their first opponents in the FA Cup (Bristol Rovers) but were knocked out by Nottingham Forest after a replay in the next round. After that, their league form deteriorated and United won only 6 out of their remaining 16 fixtures and could only finish in 5th place. Still, this was Scott Duncan's best finish to date and a marked improvement on the previous season.

The kits appear to have reverted to how they were at the start of the previous season - red was first choice and the hoops were retained as change strips.

The team photographed in change kits before the away game at Port Vale in September 1934:

Manchester United 1934/35 team photograph

The 1935/36 season was in many ways the mirror opposite of that which it followed. League form during the first half of the season was patchy and again United were knocked out of the cup after a fourth round replay. However, this time around the Reds were galvanised and went on an unbeaten run until the end of the season. A draw against Hull on the final day was enough to clinch the Second Division Championship and promotion back to the top flight after five years.

Crowds had also risen at Old Trafford during the season - in part due to this reversal of fortunes, but also because James Gibson had a platform built along the train track opposite the Main Stand to allow supporters easy access to the ground. Old Trafford Halt station still operates every match day.

The station just after it was built:

Old Trafford C1935

The United team were photographed in two different variations of their kits during 1935/36. One is the same as worn in previous seasons while the other has socks with red turnovers and white hoops:

Manchester United 1935-36 team photograph

Manchester United 1935-36 team photograph (3)

Manchester United 1935-1936 Home kit (Variant)

They were also photographed in change kits at West Ham in March 1936:

West Ham Vs Manchester United, March 1936

The return to the First Division was always going to be difficult for United, especially as they had failed to properly strengthen their team in the preseason, but it would have been reasonable to expect a little more fight from the team in 1936/37. With only three wins before Christmas it was a certainty that they would be struggling for survival come May.

The United team photographed in the spring of 1937 (the very odd looking player on the far left of the bottom row is recent signing George Gladwin, an outside half):

Manchester United 1936-37 team photograph
This is an edited version of an image from the extensive Leslie Millman collection, which can be found at and is used with full permission.

Frustratingly, two of those wins had been against a couple of the strongest sides in the country. A 3-2 derby win against eventual champions City in front of a record 68,796 crowd and a 2-0 victory over Arsenal were the highlights of a the season. Arsenal had revenge by knocking United out of the cup - again in the fourth round.

On the final day of the season an away loss to West Brom sealed United's fate - relegation to the second division, while Manchester City celebrated winning their first ever league title.

United's FA Cup defeat at Highbury was filmed for a newsreel and the players were wearing different change kits than in previous seasons. The new, thinner-hooped jerseys were presumably in the same colours of cherry and white while the shorts were dark - probably black:

Arsenal (in white) Vs Manchester United (in hoops) at Highbury, January 1937

Although I currently have no photographic or written evidence, I believe United retained these change kits (at least) up until the outbreak of WWII. They would probably also have worn the jerseys with white shorts:

Manchester United 1936-1945 Change kit Manchester United 1936-1945 Change (variant)

Although 1936/37 was a failure, groundwork had begun that would stand United in good stead in the following years. Young players such as Johnny Carey and Charlie Mitten had been scouted by Louis Rocca and signed up in early 1937. Early into 1937/38, James Gibson himself spotted a promising talent in 17 year old striker Jack Rowley while staying at his holiday home in Bournemouth where Rowley had been scoring freely for the local team, and quickly signed him for United. This most likely caused friction between the chairman and the manager Duncan, who quit the Reds shortly afterwards. Again, Walter Crickmer was handed the managerial reigns on a temporary basis. This arrangement would last until the end of the Second World War.

Players photographed before a match in 1937/38:

Manchester United 1937-38 team photograph

United's form throughout the season was again inconsistent, but a final day home win against Bury saw them finish second - just above Sheffield United on goal average - to secure immediate promotion. The Cup campaign had been a slight improvement as United reached the fifth round only to be knocked out by Brentford. Meanwhile, United's rivals at Maine Road became the only side to win the Championship one season only to be relegated the next! For the second time in forty years, the fortunes of Manchester's two great clubs had been reversed.

Meanwhile, Gibson had been working hard behind the scenes towards his dream of building an all-Mancunian team at United and the MUJAC (Manchester United Junior Athletic Club) was founded with a home found for them at The Cliff on Lower Broughton Road in Broughton, Salford which had formerly been home to Broughton Rangers rugby league club. Young players such as John Aston and Johnny Anderson who would form the core of the post war team had already begun their journey which would lead the Club to greatness and glory in the coming years.

The 1938/39 Manchester United team:

Manchester United 1938-39 team photograph

Alex Howells, a contributor to had a trawl through the archives at Getty Images and has uncovered an image of United Vs Arsenal at Highbury in 1939. The United player appears to be wearing a blue jersey:

Manchester United 1938-1945 Change kit

The season was successful enough for United. While the junior and reserve sides won their respective leagues, again the first team struggled at times but after a fairly unspectacular and unremarkable First Division campaign, they finished in a respectable 14th place. One of the few points of note is that in November 1938, a 20 year-old Allenby Chilton became the last player (to date) to be transferred directly from Liverpool to United.

Chilton would have to wait almost 8 years to make his official league debut for United, as once again, Britain found itself at war with Germany and their allies and the league was abandoned.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

1927-1934: The Great Depression

The 1927-28 season saw United revert to their traditional home colours of red and white. New jerseys with white trim inside button collars would be part of the home kit for the next three seasons (the change kit is currently unknown, but it may have been the previous home kit was used in case of a clash):

Manchester United 1927-28 team photograph

Manchester United 1927-1930 Home kit

For the superstitious supporters, it was not merely a coincidence that United won their first two league games upon the return of the red jerseys - beating Bamlett's previous side Middlesbrough 3-0 at home and Wednesday 2-0 away. Sadly, after another injury put Frank Barson out of action, the run of form did not last and United went on a run of 5 games without a win, including a record 7-1 home defeat to Newcastle.

The worst was soon to come however, when in October the club's chairman and benefactor, John Henry Davies, died at the age of 63. His influence and financial backing would be sorely missed in the coming years.

The rest of the season saw United yo-yo up and down the league table. They put five goals past Villa, Derby and Leicester in the league and seven past Brentford in the cup (although they were ultimately knocked out by eventual winners Blackburn Rovers in the sixth round), but they conceded five to Everton before Derby got their revenge with a 5-0 win of their own. By the end of March, United were second from bottom, supporters were grumbling about the way the club was being run and attendances were shrinking.

On April 21st, it looked as if the return to the second division was inevitable as the Reds slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to relegation rivals Sheffield United. There were just three games to go and United needed to win all of them to stay up. Miraculously they did just that by edging out Sunderland and Arsenal with scores of 2-1 and 1-0 respectively, before hammering Liverpool 6-1 at Old Trafford on the final day to finish in a safe 18th place.

Sadly, Barson had played his last game for the club when attempting to make a comeback from injury, he suffered yet another one at Portsmouth. He was given a free transfer to Watford in the summer.

The following season saw United struggle once more. A string of injuries to key players again proved to be their undoing, leading to more criticism of the directors from the supporters who believed they should have been investing more money into the club and securing more quality signings instead of spending small amounts on endless cheap one-game-wonders. This would only intensify in the next couple of years. Following a sequence of sixteen league games without a win, the club's response was to bring in another couple of low budget players. Luckily, one of these was to prove an unlikely hit.

Tommy Reid had been signed from Liverpool, where he usually featured in the reserves. Upon being thrown into the thick of first-team action at United, however, the Scot striker managed an impressive 14 goals in 17 appearances - alongside strike partner James Hanson (who chipped in with 20 goals himself in 1928/29), he made a big contribution to United's turnaround that season. Come May, United had secured 12th place. In time-honoured style, they were knocked out of the cup in their second tie, however.

1929/30 proved to be another unspectacular struggle against threat of relegation. Eight losses in the first eleven games set the tone and in November, United received a 7-2 thrashing by Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsbrough. Once again, the cup run ended at the earliest opportunity after a 2-0 home loss to Swindon Town. The season's few high points were the 5-0 victory over Newcastle in late December and the club's first ever win at Maine Road (Reid scoring the only goal). Off the pitch, United were becoming increasingly troubled financially, as the poor football being played at Old Trafford and the growing level of unemployment combined to reduce attendances further. United needed an average gate of around 30,000 to break even, but that had not been the case for much of the decade and the debts were now racking up.

Things took a further downward turn during 1930/31. United conceded 26 goals in the first five games of the season, when they were beaten by Villa and Middlesbrough before being demolished 6-2 at Chelsea and 6-0 at home by Huddersfield Town. Newcastle then came to Old Trafford and put seven past the Reds. The disquiet amongst the support grew, the crowds shrunk and before long the Supporters Club, led by a Mr. George Greenhough, proposed a boycott if the board failed to meet with them to discuss the state of the club. Their demands were that the club find a new manager and buy some new players, invest in a new scouting system, and elect members of the supporters club to the board.

It was suggested that the match against Arsenal on 18th August should not be attended by fans and a meeting was held the day before at Hulme Town Hall with 3,000 supporters listening to Greenhough and former club captain Charlie Roberts make their cases for and against the boycott.

Greenhough insisted that as the board had so far failed to act on the Supporters Club's demands (or even to meet with them to discuss matters), the game should be boycotted. Roberts argued that the proposed action would affect the players, who were not to blame for the club's situation, rather then the board, who were. The supporters, however voted overwhelmingly in favour of Greenhough's plan.

By 3 O'Clock the following afternoon, however, it became clear that those 3,000 in attendance for the meeting were in the minority, as the match drew the highest gate of the season so far, when 23,406 turned up despite the adverse weather. Inevitably, United lost, as they did the following game, marking a sequence of 12 successive defeats.

By the end of the season, Bamlett had been let go (with four matches still to be played, Club Secretary Walter Crickmer taking over as temporary manager - presumably in an effort to save money) and United were at the foot of the table, having managed to win just seven games. They had conceded 115 goals, scored only 53 and equalled Middlesbrough's record for lowest number of points scored in a first division season with just 22.

United players (Stan Gallimore centre) pictured in the 1930/31 season in new lace-necked jerseys (minus laces):

Manchester United 1930-31 partial team photograph

Manchester United 1930-1931 Home kit

Photos on the computer screens at the United museum show players in white change shirts in the same style as the home ones:

Manchester United 1930-1931 Change kit

In Justin Blundell's "Back From the Brink", United supporter Hubert Stewart, who was a child living with his family in Old Trafford at the time, reminisces about the time of the boycott:

"My father was on the committee of the Official Supporters' Club...(who) used to do their bit to help the club financially and at one time my mother took to washing the jerseys. All the women used to take it in turns to wash the jerseys to save the club's laundry bill. I can't remember how long it lasted but I can remember my mother complaining that it wasn't her turn to do them."

As United prepared to begin life in the second division in 1931/32 they faced financial meltdown. The economy as a whole was in dire straits and unemployment continued to rise. They club had made a loss of £2,509 the previous season and now hadn't even the cash to pay the players wages during the summer. Old Trafford was becoming a burden and the diminishing attendances were a major reason for the mounting debts. The club tried to increase numbers by reducing prices and offering tickets to the unemployed at a further reduced rate but the plans were vetoed by the FA. They had been keeping themselves above water by securing loans from Davies' widow but they could no longer rely on these to keep them afloat.

After winning just 16 points from their first 19 games, the board's belief that United would simply be able to save themselves from collapse by playing their way out of trouble on the football pitch was no more. Crowds above 10,000 had become a rarity and Crickmer had been told by the National Provincial Bank in Spring Gardens that they had withdrawn the club's credit. For the second time in 30 years, the club were close to bankruptcy.

Just like at the turn of the century, however, there was someone ready to come to the club's rescue. A local businessman and proud Mancunian, James Gibson, had been approached by local football journalist Stacey Lintott (although Louis Rocca would make a similar claim), and told of United's plight. Gibson had no interest in football, but had a reputation as someone who could turn around a failing business and as a person cared about his community. He hated the idea of such a famous institution as United becoming nothing more than a memory and so he agreed to do all he could to prevent this happening. His immediate action was to take on responsibility for the club's expenditure over the Christmas period, with the promise that if he was given enough support he would do so permanently.

The players line up before the away match at Wolves on December 26th 1931. They were thrashed 7-0:

Manchester United 1931-32 team photograph

The shirts they are wearing were presumably adopted as part of the home kit at the start of the season and are remarkably similar to the style that was worn by United in the sixties. The change kits are currently unknown, but may have been the same worn during the previous season:

Manchester United 1931-1932 Home kit

On January 20th 1932, Gibson took full control of the club. By this time he had done much to resolve the conflict between supporters and the management by engaging in talks with Mr Greenhough and revealing that he was already looking to bring in a new manager. He had also made public his dreams of producing a United team made up entirely of Mancunians and his wish to set up a youth team - something which would bring United great success 20 years later.

Attendances at Old Trafford started to rise immediately, several new players were brought in and the team were rejuvenated, winning ten and losing just four more matches during the remainder of the season on the way to a 12th place finish (although United - typically - were knocked out of the cup in the third round).

The 1932/33 team photograph:

Manchester United 1932-33 team photograph
This is an edited version of an image from the extensive Leslie Millman collection, which can be found at and is used with full permission.

Once again, the players are sporting new jerseys:

Manchester United 1932-1945 Home kit

This cartoon from October 1932 dates United's adoption of the cherry and white hooped change kits to the 1932/33 season. The two games referred to are the away matches against Charlton and Burnley:

Newspaper cartoon from October 1932

Manchester United 1932-1936 Change kit

There is an anecdotal story about the hooped jerseys being given to United by Wigan RLFC as a gift to help them out when they were in financial difficulties. They are certainly of a very similar style to those worn by the Rugby League side at the time (as this photograph of Ken Gee shows), but as this cartoon suggests that the kits were first worn after the Gibson takeover (and subsequent injection of his cash), there seems to be little to back up this tale.

United's progress under Gibson continued in 1932/33 as players such as George Vose and Tommy Frame were signed and Scott Duncan was installed as manager. The highlight of the season was probably the 7-1 home win against Millwall, but the Reds' poor away form meant all they could manage was a sixth place finish. Yet again the cup campaign was over 90 minutes after it began.

For the 1933 FA Cup Final, Everton and Manchester City wore numbered shirts for what is believed to be the first time. Everton (who won 3-0) wore numbers 1-11 while City wore 12-22. The FA made shirt numbering compulsory in 1939. The exact date when United first wore numbered shirts is currently unknown, however.

The 1933/34 season was perhaps the most desperate in United's history. After they had seemed to have turned the corner since the Gibson takeover, remarkably by the season's end, the club would find itself on the brink of relegation to the third division.

The season opened with a 4-0 loss at Plymouth and it wasn't until the sixth league match away to Brentford that United registered their first win. By the beginning of December, United looked to have staged a recovery, but after the win at Port Vale on the 2nd of the month, they would only pick up three points over the next thirteen games (as well as being knocked out of the cup by Portsmouth in a third round replay during the same period). Also, for the third time in four seasons, United conceded seven goals during one of their Christmas fixtures (this time away to Grimsby Town!) .

The only league win during those thirteen fixtures was away to Burnley, where United wore the cherry and white hooped jerseys. Keen to seize upon anything that may offer United hope of escaping the drop, the "lucky" reputation of the hooped strips grew among supporters and players alike. So much so, that for the home game against Bury on March 3rd, the players turned out in the hoops at Old Trafford - and won 2-1 with goals from Jack Ball and Stan Gallimore. For the remainder of the season the hoops would remain first choice kit (presumably the solid red jerseys were used for away matches when there was a colour clash - possibly at the Dell against Southampton).

By the end of April, United found themselves teetering on the precipice. Lincoln had already been relegated and either United or Millwall would follow them. As fate would have it, those two sides were to meet in a decider at The Den on the final day of the season.

A tense, nervy affair could have been expected, but as it happened, United - by all accounts - enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win to guarantee their place in the second division the following season. On their return to Manchester they were given a heroes welcome by around 3,000 fans at Central Station. It was a far smaller crowd than had welcomed home Manchester City's players (including a 24 year-old Matt Busby and a young goalkeeper called Frank Swift) after their FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth a week earlier*, but it marked a point where United were in the trough of the wave of success while City were at it's peak and that situation would eventually be reversed.

*A recent article in Four Four Two magazine states that the 1934 FA Cup Final was the first occasion that both sides were outfitted by Umbro, who would feature heavily in the story of United's kits.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

1922-1927: The Chapman Years

This period of English football is best remembered for Herbert Chapman leading Huddersfield Town to successive titles before leaving them for Arsenal and immediately turning the north Londoners around from a side battling relegation to one challenging for the title. In his first season in charge of the Gunners, he steered them to second place - just five points behind his previous club, who had become the first side to win the league three times in a row. By the time of his death in 1934, he had repeated his achievements in West Yorkshire with Arsenal and set them well on their way to emulating the Terriers by winning a consecutive hattrick of titles for themselves. Legend also has it that Herbert Chapman had a hand in designing Arsenal's kits - giving their plain red jerseys the now iconic white sleeves.

Chapman's namesake at United did not fare quite so well, although he did eventually succeed in returning the club to the First Division and similarly had a big influence in their kit design.

For home games in the 1922/23 season, United turned out not in their now familiar red jerseys, but in white ones with a red "V" (or more properly "diamonds", as there was another V on the back of the shirts joined at the shoulder seams). These shirts were very similar to those worn by United in the 1909 FA Cup Final victory, albeit with a larger, thicker diamond and a button collar rather than a lace one.

Perhaps the reason for this change was a belief that a design worn back in the glory days would inspire a renaissance at United. More likely however, is that the change was down to the new manager's previous club. He had joined from Airdrieonians, who had been wearing identical kits for a decade (in fact, Airdieonian's nickname was The Diamonds, due to the design of their kit).

When Chapman took over at Airdrie, they had been wearing red and white stripes or hoops, so it seems he may have been instrumental in introducing the new design there, too. Perhaps the jerseys had made the journey south along with John Chapman when he took up the post at United. We will almost certainly never know for sure, but the white shirts would remain United's first choice for the next five years.

Manchester United 1922-1924 Home kit Manchester United 1922-1924 Change kit

The team photographed before the away match at Wolves in the 1922/23 season:

Manchester United 1922-23 team photograph

In the top left of the picture is Frank Barson, who was making his United debut. He had been signed for £5,000 from Aston Villa, with whom he had won the FA Cup in 1920, and he came with a notorious reputation having been sent off and suspended on numerous occasions in an era where receiving a red card was a rarity. In his contract was written an agreement to make Barson the landlord of a pub in Manchester if United were to be promoted (presumably due to the club's continued patronage by JH Davies). He would go on captain the club during his six years at Old Trafford before being transferred to Watford in 1928.

United's optimism for the 1922/23 season wasn't quite matched by their performances as they found the second division a little tougher than they had expected. They had enjoyed some decent results, such as a 6-1 win against league leaders and eventual champions Notts County, but they had drawn far too many games and finished three points shy of promotion in fourth place. Their cup run in now typical style had ended in the second round, beaten 4-0 by Spurs at White Hart Lane. Worryingly, it had been a decade since United had progressed any further in the competition.

United's dismal FA Cup record continued in the 1923/24 season when the two Chapmans met at Old Trafford in front of a crowd of 67,000 supporters. Huddersfield, who had finished third in the league the previous season proved too much for United, and won the game easily by three goals to nil.

The Red's league form slumped that season and they finished the season in a lowly 14th place having won only 13 matches - fewer than they had lost (15) or drawn (14). They hadn't finished in as low a position since the Newton Heath days.

The team are photographed before a practice match prior to the 1924/25 season. Half of the players appear to be wearing the old (now faded and stretched) home jerseys worn from 1920-22. Presumably they had been worn as change jerseys since the adoption of the white home shirts:

Manchester United 1924-25 team photograph
These photos are part of the extensive Leslie Millman collection that can be found at and are used with full permission.

The only change to these kits are the slightly different socks worn:

Manchester United 1924-1926 Home kit Manchester United 1924-1925 Change kit

The 1924/25 season saw United's cup run end at the earliest possible stage with a 2-0 loss at fellow second division side Sheffield Wednesday, but their league form was much improved. They strung together an impressive seven wins on the trot in Autumn to top the table and only lost two games in the rest of 1924. They had been deposed at the top by Leicester City, but promotion was virtually assured after a 4-0 home win against Port Vale in the penultimate match, leaving challengers Derby only a slim mathematical chance of taking United's place in the top flight the following season. United's players stayed on the pitch at the end of their fixture and the supporters waited inside Old Trafford with them, anxiously awaiting news of the other games. A huge cheer went up from fans and players alike when it was announced that Derby had been held to a draw at Coventry - United were back in the top flight after three years. Taking much of the credit were the defence who had conceded only 23 goals all season.

Legend has it that Frank Barson was given the keys to his pub shortly afterward, but his name would not remain over the door for long. Apparently, just minutes after it opened, he became so fed up of all the supporters pouring in off the streets to congratulate him, he handed the keys to a waiter, told him the place was his and left - never to return!

The following season saw United improve dramatically. In the league they finished in an impressive 9th place. They had accumulated the same amount of points as Liverpool and Aston Villa but had an inferior goal average. Had it not been for a run of five losses in April, the Reds may well have finished in the top four or five.

On September 12th the first Manchester derby to take place at Maine Road - where City had moved two years previously - was played. It was a 1-1 draw, which was a decent result considering the return fixture saw United hammered 6-1, the Reds biggest derby defeat to date.

Almost miraculously, United came close to ending their 17 years of cup disappointment by reaching the semi-final against their City rivals, having seen off Port Vale, Spurs, Sunderland and Fulham. Sadly, the blues comfortably beat United 3-0 at Bramhall Lane, but it was not to be their year either as they lost the final 1-0 to Bolton and were relegated a week later after losing to Newcastle 3-2 (having missed a penalty in a match they had only needed a draw from to guarantee survival). Apparently a local newspaper's headline the following day read "Bitter Experiences of Manchester City"...

During the FA Cup tie at Spurs, United were photographed wearing red change shirts with button collars like those on the home shirts:

Clarence "Lal" Hilditch in change kit 1926

Manchester United 1925-1926 Change kit

The 1926/27 season was less remarkable for United - at least as far as the events on the pitch. Once again United went out of the cup in the first round, albeit after taking their tie against Reading to a second replay at Villa Park, where they lost 2-1. They won only four fewer points in the league than they had the previous season, but it was enough to see them finish six places lower, in 15th position.

There were also slight changes to the kits as different socks were worn (photographs of this period are fairly difficult to get hold of, but these images have been made with reference to pictures on the computer screens at the United museum):

Manchester United 1926-1927 Home kit Manchester United 1926-1927 Change kit

What the season was ultimately to be remembered for was the suspension of John Chapman. The FA had launched an investigation into the manager in September 1926 at Manchester's Grand Hotel. On October 7th, they announced that Chapman had been suspended "from taking part in football or football management during the present season for improper conduct in his position as Secretary-Manager of the Manchester United Football Club"". No further explanation was ever given and Chapman never returned to his position. Appointed in his place temporarily as player-manager, was Lal Hilditch, who had joined the club a decade earlier, during the war. His brief tenure lasted only until the beginning of April when Herbert Bamlett was given the job. Hilditch remains the club's only ever player-manager.

On the other side of Manchester, there was another one of those "typical City" moments, when on the last day of the season, the Maine Road side demolished Bradford 8-0 to almost certainly secure promotion ahead of Portsmouth, who had gone into the final round of fixtures with a minutely superior goal average and who City fans heard had been drawing 1-1 with Preston at half time. Just as celebrations were about to get underway in Moss Side, however, Pompey scored four second half goals to win 5-1 and pipped City to second place by the most minuscule margin: +0.006 goal average.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

2009-10 Away Kit Revealed:

The away kit for next season has now been officially revealed. Much like the home kit, images of this had been leaked some time ago. It also uses the same template as the home kit but in black and blue colours:

Manchester United 2009-10 Change kit

Manchester United 2009-10 change shirt

Manchester United 2009-10 change shorts

Manchester United 2009-10 change socks

Patrice Evra in the new kit:

Patrice Evra in 2009-10 change kit

Again, the kit is rather perplexing. This time the accompanying blurb mentions how the design "reflects the kits worn in the 1909 FA Cup Final" rather than the kits worn upon United's move to Old Trafford 100 years ago.

It is rather puzzling then that the only one of the new designs Nike have put out that resembles that worn in 1909 is the white goalkeepers kit. It's true that Harry Moger wore the white shirt with red "V" in that match as it was not until the following season that 'keepers began to wear differently coloured shirts to their outfield teammates, but why this white design couldn't have replaced the previous season's unpopular white away kit is unknown.

Nevertheless, Nike have gone back to black with this strip, and that is usually a safe bet for a good seller on the replica market. The previous black away kit (from the 2007/08 season) was so popular that it sold out after only a few months and became quite difficult to get hold of. The red highlights really helped to lift the design that was otherwise in the exact same template as the 2007-09 home shirt. It was clear that these colours really worked well together, which again raises questions as to why Nike didn't simply repeat that formula for success with this new uniform.

Although there has been blue (in various shades) used in United's change kits all the way back to the adoption of the name in 1902, and it was not until 1993 that they wore black, in this case it seems that the more modern change colours of black and red would have worked better. It is simply a far more imposing and threatening combination than black and blue. I couldn't imagine that Christopher Lee would have looked half as frightening as Dracula with a cape with royal blue lining, can you?

Dracula (Christopher Lee) in blue?

In other recent kit news, Edwin van der Sar appeared in a yellow and black variant of this new kit in the Audi Cup final.

Monday, 27 July 2009

New Photographs Added To Badge Gallery

A brief update to let readers know that several new photographs of badges from match-worn United shirts have been added to the Flickr set.

Here are some low-res links to the full size versions:

Manchester United 1948 FA Cup Final badge Manchester United 1973 away shirt badge Manchester United 1983 League Cup Final badge Manchester United 1983 FA Cup Final badge Manchester United 1994 League Cup Final badge Manchester United 1996-98 home shirt badge Manchester United 1997-99 away shirt badge Manchester United 2007 FA Cup Final badge Manchester United 2007-09 home shirt badge Manchester United 2009-10 home shirt badge