Thursday, 25 June 2009

Teaser Trailer: The Next Half-Century

Here's a short video clip I put together to give a taster of what you can expect in upcoming posts. The footage features Manchester United in a variety of famous (and not so famous) kits between 1911 and 1958*:

*This video is for general information and educational purposes. All rights reserved by the owners, Manchester United, 2009.

Music: Follow Me by Levenshulme's finest - Black Curtain.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

2009/10 Home Kit Revealed

Yesterday, Manchester United sent out emails with a teaser image of the new kit for next season:

Manchester United 2009-10 home kit teaser

The kit will be officially unveiled on July 1st, but the image leaves little to the imagination and it appears to be the same one that leaked photos appeared of several weeks ago. It has a black chevron across the chest and a black crew neck. The shorts feature red flashes down the sides, similar to those worn most recently with the 1996/98 home kit. The socks feature a red chevron on the back of the calves with the Nike swoosh below:

Manchester United 2009-10 Home kit

An article was published on where Rio Ferdinand talked about the new kit:

New kit's nod to history

United's new home kit for the 2009/10 campaign will be officially unveiled next week, but it is now available to pre-order online.

The red kit celebrates 100 years of Old Trafford and part of the design will reflect that which was worn by the Reds a century ago.

The players will don the kit for the first time during their pre-season tour of Asia next month. The squad fly out to the Far East on 16 July - the day the kit goes on sale and on which pre-orders will be delivered.

Rio Ferdinand says the players are always excited to see the new kit and insists the historical aspect acts as an inspiration to everyone.

"Maintaining the traditions of the club is very important," he told

"Last season we had the blue kit to remember the European Cup winners of 1968 and this one dates back to the 1900s to celebrate 100 years of Old Trafford.

"This club has always taken pride in its history - it acts as an inspiration to all of us and it’s great to see it represented in the new kit."

This article is strange for a number of reasons. Firstly it had previously been reported that the kit was to be a tribute to that worn for the 1909 FA Cup final, which had a "V" sash on the chest (see below). Secondly, Nike's policy for these kits is to bring them out for the season after the event. The blue third kit from last season was to commemorate 40 years since the club's first European cup win, although it was worn 41 seasons after the event (1967/68 was the European Cup winning campaign, but the 40th anniversary kit came out for the 2008/09 season). This was also the case with Celtic's home kit from the 2007/08 season.

The fact that United didn't make the switch to Old Trafford until midway through the 1909/10 season and that they did not wear a kit resembling this one in any way (a different kit with a "V" sash was worn again by United, but not for another 12 years) makes it obvious to me that this kit would not have been designed as a nod to the 100th anniversary of the move across town, but in recognition of the centenary of the first cup win. The mention of the latter event seems to have been no more than an afterthought.

Park Ji Sung in the new kit:

Ji Sung Park in 2009/10 home kit

As far as the kit itself goes, well it's a disappointing effort as far as I'm concerned. Nike have produced some excellent kits for the coming season for the likes of Barcelona, Aston Villa and Paris Saint Germain (although that is not without controversy as the famous central stripe has been removed from the home shirt), but United's kit seems to have little effort gone into the design. The collar is very basic - presumably a cost saving choice- and the v-neck featured on the Barcelona and PSG shirts would surely have been better suited to complement the chevron:

Barcelona 2009/10 home shirt detail

The shirt would also have been improved by the addition of the sleeve caps featured on almost all of the other 2009/10 Nike shirts - again, I can only put the absence of these down to cost.

United seem to be victims of their own success when it comes to things such as inflated transfer fees, and kit design appears to suffer, too. Manufacturers know they do not have to make any particular effort to produce a good kit, as they know whatever design they put out will sell in the millions. To add insult to injury, the shirt is priced at £42.99 on the United on-line store - £3 more than last season's.

Still, on the bright side, it is not as bad as Everton's new home kit - the shirt from which resembles a Val Doonican-style cardigan over turtle-neck combo - or Newcastle United's new away kit which appears to have been influenced by the fact the designer was munching his way through a 3lb bag of lemonade fizzbombs while working on it.

Update: The shirt has been officially unveiled earlier than previously announced. From
The red kit celebrates 100 years of Old Trafford with a large chevron across the chest, reflecting the design of the shirts worn by United when the stadium first opened during the 1909/10 season.

The back of the shirt has an engineered mesh, which is a series of small chevrons, a performance feature to offer the players even greater ventilation during games. Inside the black round-neck collar is a high quality woven label in red, white and black, while engineered into the side seam is a small label that reads ‘The Theatre of Dreams Since 1910.’

The shirt is made from Nike Dri-Fit fabric, which keeps the players drier, cooler and lighter by drawing sweat from the body to the fabric’s surface, while it’s three-dimensional construction gives more air space around the skin to reduce clinging.

The white shorts have a red stripe along the side, a red devil graphic on the back of the waist band, while the draw cords feature 'MUFC' on the tips. The black socks have a red chevron on the calf.

The players will don the kit for the first time during their pre-season tour of Asia next month.
The red-highlighted part of the text is odd, as United would wear their regular red shirts in their first season at Old Trafford. I can only imagine that this "tribute" element has been added as an excuse to change the kit after just one season, as Nike did with the 2006/07 home kit. The chevrons are actually far more likely to do with Nike's current "V For Victory" campaign than anything else.

Here are the official photos of the home kit:

Manchester United 2009/10 home shirts
Manchester United 2009/10 home shorts
Manchester United 2009/10 home socks

These are the goalkeepers kits:

Manchester United 2009/10 home goalkeeper jersey
Manchester United 2009/10 away goalkeeper shorts
Manchester United 2009/10 home goalkeeper socks
Manchester United 2009/10 away goalkeeper jersey
Manchester United 2009/10 away goalkeeper socks

Saturday, 13 June 2009

1908-1909: The First FA Cup Win

Shortly after returning from the club's first international tour, where players and officials had been stoned by opposition fans after a 7-0 win in Hungary, United took part in the newly rejigged FA Charity Shield, where they faced the winners of the Southern League, Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge. It was a 1-1 draw, but United won the replay 4-0, with Jimmy Turnbull scoring a hattrick. They wore their usual home kits for both games.

The team line up for the start of the 1908/09 season, with their haul, the Charity Shield, the League Trophy and the Manchester Cup (click any of these images for higher res):

Manchester United 1908-09 team photo

The team photographed before a public practice match at the start of the season:

Manchester United 1908-09 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.

In the league, United were unable to replicate their success of the previous season, finishing in a disappointing 13th place. They also lost their record for most points in a season to Newcastle, who beat it by a single point. They were to have more luck in the cup, however.

The campaign began at home to Brighton and then Everton. Both games finished 1-0 with Harold Halse scoring both goals. Then came Blackburn, also at home, who were thrashed 6-1, with hattricks each from Sandy Turnbull and Jimmy Turnbull (no relation).

United were through to the quarter-finals, which was as far as they had ever got in the competition previously, and were drawn away to Burnley. With only 18 minutes of the match to go and losing 1-0 it looked as if they were again destined to go out in the last eight, but for a blizzard to save them as the referee was forced to abandon the match.

Legend has it that referee Herbert Bamlett's lips were so cold he could not blow the whistle to end the match so Charlie Roberts had to blow time himself. Oddly, that wasn't to be the last United would see of Bamlett, as he would become their manager in the late 1920s.

The replay was a thrilling 3-2 win for United and in the semi-final they beat cup-holders Newcastle 1-0 at Bramhall Lane, with the goal coming once again from Halse.

The final was to take place four weeks later, on Saturday, 24th April 1909 at Crystal Palace against Bristol City.

United were to face their cup-final opponents in the League just twelve days before the showpiece, and they were held to a goal-less draw at Ashton Gate, where they were photographed in white lace-neck shirts with a red "V" on the chest. Note that goalkeeper Harry Moger is wearing the same kit as the outfield players. This was common practice until the FA allowed keepers to wear different shirts from their teammates the following season:

Manchester United V Bristol City, April 12th 1909

Manchester United 1909 Change kit

These kits are commonly thought to have been worn only in the final - albeit with the addition of a badge with the red rose of Lancashire on the chest - but the images above show that is not the case. It is unknown whether they were worn for any other matches, however. The shirts are also said to have been purchased from Billy Meredith's sportswear shop in St Peter's square (the site of which was cleared to make way for the Town Hall extension and Central Library in the 1930s). The shorts were white and the socks appear to have been black with a white band between two red bands on the turnovers.

The programmes were quickly printed up:

1909 FA Cup Final souvenir card 1909 FA Cup Final programme

Shortly before the Cup Final, popular music-hall star George Robey presented the team with their kits - now adorned with the red rose. Although one or two United players are pictured in socks with white hoops on the turnovers, the majority wore plain black socks without hoops:

Manchester United 1909 FA Cup Final kit

Charlie Robert and George Stacy at the 1909 FA Cup final

Here's a colourised version:

Manchester United 1909 FA Cup Final (selectively colourised)

In front of a crowd of over 70,000 the game kicked off. Apparently it started brightly and after 22 minutes, United went ahead, with Sandy Turnbull (who was struggling with a knee injury that would have kept most on the sidelines) turning in a rebound from a Halse shot. It was the only goal of the game.

1909 FA Cup Final Report

Billy Meredith's shirt from the match, on display at the club museum:

Billy Meredith's 1909 shirt

Billy Meredith's 1909 shirt detail

Sandy Turnbull's cup final shirt - missing its badge and in poor condition - on display at the museum:

Sandy Turnbull's 1909 shirt

They returned home to Manchester on the following Tuesday, arriving at Central Station before making the short trip over to Albert Square for a reception at the Town Hall where they were greeted by thousands of cheering supporters:

1909 Town Hall Reception

Incredibly, they then had to travel across town to Clayton for a match against Arsenal, where 30,000 fans awaited, where they inevitably lost. Despite this, the Arsenal players were invited to join in the continuing celebrations with the United team.

100 Years On...

To mark the centenary of the final, supporters of United and Bristol City organised a rematch - which took place exactly 100 years to the day, at the exact time and on the same ground as the original. United won 2-1.

Nike have said that they will use the designs of the shirts worn in the historic match as inspiration for the 2009-10 kits.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Mystery Charlie Roberts Shirt

At the Manchester United Museum at Old Trafford is a display case of items collected by former club captain Charlie Roberts throughout his career.

One if the items is a blue shirt which is labeled as being an "early 1900s United shirt":

Charlie Roberts' shirt

There is no photographic or written evidence that United ever wore solid blue change shirts, however, at least not while Roberts was at the club.

The only shirt that bears any slight resemblance is the one in this photograph of Roberts at a Players Union gala match against Newcastle on 29th April 1908 at St James' Park:

Charlie Roberts at Players Union gala match, April 29, 1908

Charlie Roberts kit - Unkown

If anyone has any other information about this shirt, or photographs from the PU gala match, please let us know.

Also, as a point of interest, the label on the shirt bears the name of Alec Watson Sports Outfitters, Manchester:

Charlie Roberts' shirt detail

This company was based at 1 Newton Street and their label appeared on some other United shirts up until the ones worn in the 1957 FA Cup Final. The address is now the home of Empire Books and their sister company Empire Exchange, who have a fine selection of local football programmes and memorabilia in stock and which is well worth a rummage around if you are passing.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

1906-1908: From New Boys To Champions

In August of 1905, United's local (and at the time more successful) rivals City were embroiled in a scandal. They were found to have been paying their players illegal payments above the £4 a week maximum wage. The FA acted by handing out a draconian punishment to the Ardwick-based side - it dismissed five of their directors and banned 17 of their players from appearing for the club again. The team that had won the FA Cup the previous year were effectively dissolved.

United were quick off the mark and with news that the players were set to be auctioned at Manchester's Queens Hotel in November, it was rumoured that they decided to make approaches to the players they wanted before the event, as they were concerned about the prices they would command at auction.

The Queens Hotel, on the corner of Piccadilly and Portland Street, C1905:

Queens Hotel C1905

If the newspapers were to be believed, Mangnall privately met with a number of the City players and negotiated their transfers to United. This caused fury amongst the other interested clubs, but the FA were not interested and United secured the services of Sandy Turnbull, Jimmy Bannister and Herbert Burgess.

As well as those three, Mangnall had persuaded Billy Meredith, "The Welsh Wizard" to come to Clayton. The scorer of City's only goal in their 1904 FA Cup final victory, Meredith had been embroiled in a bribery scandal the following year and was lucky to escape a lifetime ban. Instead he was banned for a year. During this time, he was disappointed in City's unwillingness to pay him his wages and it was he who blew the whistle on their "under-the-table" dealings. Despite this he was still widely regarded as the jewel in City's crown.

These events marked the shift of power in Manchester from blue to red, and it has (barring a period between the wars) remained that way ever since. All the momentum that City had built up was transferred directly to United in one summer.

United would have to see out 1906 before they could field their new signings, and this photo shows the rest of the players at the start of the 1906-07 season in training outfits:

Manchester United 1906-07 team photo

A photograph taken at the public practice match just before the start of the season shows the players in two different kits. Eleven of them are in the familiar home kits, while the other eleven are wearing light coloured jerseys with white collars. Not many teams wore light colours at the time. The light salmon pink shirts (as worn by the likes of Everton) had fallen out of favour several years beforehand, meaning that the choice of light colours was limited to light blue or possibly gold or yellow (although teams we traditionally associate with wearing yellow jerseys such as Norwich and Watford had not yet adopted the colour). This means it's quite possible that these shirts were in the same colour as United's rivals at Hyde Road:

Manchester United 1906-07 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.

Manchester United 1906-1907 Change kit (possible) Manchester United 1906-1907 Change kit (possible)

There have been a lot of anecdotal stories told by City fans over the years about how we gained our nickname (currently used exclusively by Blues) "The Rags". One of these stories involves United being so strapped for cash that they had to donate us some of their ragged old jerseys. This story certainly does not tally with the 1906 photograph as it was City who were having money problems and United who were enjoying an influx of investment.

The above photograph is also puzzling because it is the only one that features United in the light change shirts. By the first game of the 1906/07 season - a 2-1 away win at Bristol City - they were wearing new white change jerseys, which would be retained until 1909:

Bristol City V United, September 1, 1906

Once again, with a black and white photograph as our only evidence of the kit we have to make some presumptions about colours. Although the dark collar, cuffs and socks could have been any dark colour, it is most likely they were red, in keeping with the club's traditions:

Machster Uited 1906-1910 Change kit

January 1st 1907 saw the long awaited debuts of the ex-City four and they were cheered onto the pitch at Bank Street by a crowd of 40,000. United beat Villa after Meredith crossed for Turnbull to score the game's only goal.

That season ended with United in a respectable 8th place, while Newcastle set a new record by winning the league with 51 points.

The downside of 1906/07 was that the Reds were knocked out of the FA Cup in a first round replay by Portsmouth. In the first game, away at Fratton Park, United again wore the new change kit, which would be used until 1909:

Portsmouth Vs Manchester United, January 12, 1907

The 1907/08 United team line up for a practice match at Bank Street.:

Manchester United 1907-08 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.

Although the kits were practically identical to those worn in previous seasons, the hooped-topped socks had been gradually replaced by plain black ones. These kits were to be worn for the next four seasons. Some players also wore socks with "cadet stripes". In fact Billy Meredith was was almost always seen in them and they seem to have appeared simultaniously with the arrival of him and his fellow ex-City players:

Manchester United 1907-1911 Home kit Manchester United 1907-1911 Home kit (variant)

By May, United had beaten Newcastle's record by collecting 52 points in the First Division; The League Title had been won by a Manchester side for the first time.

George Wall, Jimmy Bannister and Sandy Turnbull in the change shirts:

George Wall C1907 in change shirt Jimmy Bannister C1907 in change shirt Sandy Turnbull C1907 in change shirt

Sunday, 7 June 2009

1903-1906: An Upturn In Fortune

Manchester United's first season under their new name and ownership was a moderate success, they finished in fifth place after only managing to come fifteenth the previous season. Although they beat their neighbours 2-0 at Hyde Road, it would be City who came top winning promotion to the first division.

The team, photographed at the beginning of the 1903/04 (courtesy of manchesterunitedman1 - click on all these images for much higher resolution):

Manchester United 1903-04 team photograph

The team appear to be wearing two or three slightly different kinds of shirts, but as there are only 21 players in the photograph, that suggests it was not taken before a practice match and that they are probably all red home shirts. Clubs were still not particularly bothered if the players' kits did not match, so long as the colours were correct. Captain Harry Stafford is wearing a badge on his shirt, although the details are difficult to make out and I am unsure of it's significance. Stafford would retire from the game shortly after this was taken, without kicking a ball that season.

Manchester United 1903-1907 Home kit Manchester United 1903-1904 Home kit (Variant) Manchester United 1903-1904 Home kit (Variant 2)

Although the investment from the likes of Davies and Stafford had bolstered the club financially, the fact was they were still a second division side - and this was not good enough for the new directors. Secretary James West found himself shouldering a lot of the blame - "For mistakes for which he was not really responsible", according to the Evening News - and promptly handed in his resignation to the board.

On September 30th, 1903, just two day's after West's departure, the board appointed the Burnley secretary Ernest Mangnall to the vacant position at United. Over the next decade, he was to have a profound influence over the club.

Mangnall was famous for his trademark boater:

Ernest Mangnall

Just over a month later, instead of paying a transfer fee for Joe Schofield and Charlie Wright, United played their old club Ashton Town. Following the death of Alec Bell's father, "Out of respect the United turned out in new black and white jerseys". We can only guess that they looked something like this:

Manchester United 1903 Friendly Change kit

Almost as influential a figure as Mangnall in United's early years would be Charlie Roberts, a young half-back signed from Grimsby in 1904. Roberts would soon become United's captain and their first player to be selected for the English national side. He is said to have caused a stir by insisting on playing in short shorts when the FA rules at the time stated they should be knee-length (photograph C1911):

Charlie Roberts

Roberts' debut came during the penultimate home game of the season and saw United beat Burton Utd on the way to finish in third place, narrowly missing out on promotion. They found themselves in the exact same position at the end of the following season, but in the 1905/06 season, United finished in second place and were finally promoted back into the top flight after 12 seasons in the second division.

The 1904/05 team, with Major the St Bernard front centre (also courtesy of manchesterunitedman1):

Manchester United 1904-05 team photograph

The team line up before a match early on in the 1905-06 season (again original photo from manchesterunitedman1 collection):

Manchester United 1905/06 team photograph

The home jerseys were in the style of those worn in the previous season (this style of shirt would be worn until 1911, albeit with plain black socks from 1907 onwards). Other photos from this time period show that the socks worn were mainly the ones with the blue hoop, although in this photograph some players are wearing plain black ones.

Charlie Roberts in the home shirt, showing the two-button collar in more detail:

Charlie Roberts in 1907-10 home shirt

Another photograph from the 1905/06 season shows the players before a practice match with half of them in home kits and the other half in white change shirts. Details are hard to make out, but they appear to be the same as those worn as part of the home kit at the turn of the century:

Manchester United 1905/06 team photograph

Manchester United 1905-1906 Change  kit