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Devilish kits

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Amid ongoing disappointment surrounding a string of subpar shirts, we’ve decided to look back at better times for Manchester United sartorially speaking.

The club have sported some unforgettable strips down the years, and many Red Devils fans yearn for the calibre of shirts of yesteryear. These outfits had the all-round style, uniqueness and sheer timelessness to be true classics, and weren’t adorned with TeamViewer’s lamentably lacklustre logo like they are now. The fact that you still see fans wearing these vintage shirts out and about is testament to how they’ve stood the test of time. The less said about the infamous grey away strip from 1996, the better, however.

So, with all of that aside, we’ve ranked the top 10 Manchester United home retro shirts, covering the period from Sharp’s debut on the kit in 1982, all the way up to when the Glazers took over the club in 2005. 

1992/93 & 1993/94

 

Simply the perfect fusion between a bygone style of football kits and the distinctively loud borderline garish look of the ‘90s, United’s 1992 to 1994 home kit is a truly remarkable specimen. Featuring a futuristic imprint of the Umbro logo and its first two letters in a 3D font throughout the body, this is juxtaposed strikingly with a lace-up collar, the like we’d been seeing since football’s formative years. The result is a head-spinning convergence of multiple eras of football history. 

However, while the jersey is undeniably bold and oh-so memorable, the lace-up collar inevitably ages it, meaning the shirt isn’t quite as fashion-forward as others on this list. 

1994/95 & 1995/96

 

While this is by no means up there in the style stakes, this strip’s body is quite incredibly embellished by an image of Old Trafford, and for that alone it had to make the list. And to be honest, even with this potentially divisive print, it’s not a bad jersey at all. 

Featuring a smart black collar with red and white trimmings, its big red emblem is also a nice touch, though it does slightly drown out the club’s famous logo. Oh and did I mention there’s also an imprint of Old Trafford on the shirt? (Sorry, I just couldn’t not bring it up again). 

1984/85 & 1985/86

 

Worn during United’s famous FA Cup final victory over Everton in 1985, this shirt is a classy, distinctively ‘80s number that’s notable for its out-there white shoulder stripes. Just the third jersey to feature the Sharp logo, the Red Devils’ 1984 to 1986 home jersey also scores highly for its chic black, white and red five-lined collar and sleeves. 

That said, I’m not a huge fan of having the United badge in the middle, nor the Adidas logo on the arms. Overall though, it’s undoubtedly a lovely jersey and one that’s stood the test of time. 

2000/01 & 2001/02

Getting high marks largely because of its futuristic black and white neckline and cuffs, this Umbro number is a masterclass in why sometimes less is more. 

Worn between 2000 and 2002, the shirt was donned during some pretty famous victories, including the 6-1 win over Arsenal, the 5-3 comeback from 3-0 down away at Spurs, and both legs of their  Champions League quarter final victory over Deportivo La Coruña in April 2002. It was also the first Manchester United shirt with a sponsor that wasn’t Sharp, as the Japanese electronics brand made way for Vodafone after almost two decades.

1982/83

 

Worn during Norman Whiteside’s breakthrough season for the Red Devils, in a campaign in which they claimed the FA Cup for the fifth time in their history, this Adidas shirt is oozing with class. Highlights include the elegant pinstripe pattern on the body and the red and black lines down the collar, while the white and black ‘Sharp Electronics’ logo is super smart, and the only time it was ever on a United shirt in this fashion. This gives the jersey bonus points for originality. 

My only slight qualm is how small the badge is, which is something you just don’t see with other kits and prevents this from breaking into my top five. 

2002/03 & 2003/04

 

Noteworthy for being the first United shirt to feature the Nike logo, the iconic swoosh combined with the jersey’s modish black chevrons well and truly catapulted the club into the 21st century. 

A Red Devils kit is best when it gets the combination of its red, black and white colours just right in essence, the less it looks like a Liverpool kit, the better and this strip manages it with aplomb. It is perhaps most readily associated with Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who enjoyed his best United form in the shirt. The Dutchman plundered an astonishing 44 goals in the 2002/03 season alone the second-highest individual season goal tally in United history. All together now: Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. 

1997/98, 1998/99 and 1999/2000 European kit 

 

Just a single glance at this shirt will have the words “And Solskjaer has won it!” ringing in your ears, but one of the club’s only ever European jerseys isn’t here for nostalgic reasons: it’s a beauty in its own right. And boy did the club milk it. Released in 1997, the shirt was worn for three whole seasons, which even by the ‘90s standards where new kits weren’t pumped out every year like they are now was excessive. But when a United shirt looks this good, who can blame them? 

Featuring a lovely white collar with black piping, a regal shield housing the club badge and imprints of the Champions League emblem throughout the body, the shirt makes me pine for clubs to release European shirts more often. No I don’t care if it’s a blatant marketing ploy just look at how nice this kit is!

1998/99 & 1999/2000

 

Coincidentally, the next jersey on my list was also worn during United’s treble-winning campaign, making it incredibly iconic regardless of its sartorial stature. But the club’s league shirt between 1998 and 2000 was also bursting with style and showcased Umbro at the top of its football-shirt-designing game. 

So ‘90s looking it makes me want to sit in a room listening to Oasis through a CD Walkman while playing with a Tamagotchi, the Umbro livery along the arms is just glorious, as are the little black and red lines inhabiting the collars and the sleeves. Combine all of this with the, well, sharp Sharp logo, and you’re onto a serious winner. 

1988/89 & 1989/90

 

Just missing out on the top spot is this delightful Adidas number worn between 1988 and 1990. Simple but sophisticated, it’s eerily similar to the 1982/83 kit listed above, complete with the pinstripe pattern (and the letters MUFC) and gorgeous v-neck collar featuring the club’s red, black and white colours. 

However, unlike that shirt, the Manchester United badge is an actual normal size, which propels it way ahead and into second place on our list. Indeed, aside from the fact the badge sported on this shirt has since been re-designed, the jersey is so timeless-looking it could be released today and no one would bat an eyelid. Top stuff.

1986/87 & 1987/88

 

Claiming the official honour of Manchester United’s best home retro shirt of all time is this flawless masterpiece worn during Sir Alex Ferguson’s first season in charge. As you can probably tell, it bears a striking resemblance to the kit in second place (and naturally the 1982/83 one too), which made it incredibly hard to pick between the two. 

What sets this shirt apart, however, is its incredibly clean look, the body’s elegant diagonal pinstripes and its stylish v-neck collar, one that’s a lot less chunky than the 1988 to 1990 shirt collar. Like that strip, this one is also effortlessly timeless and bursting with pzazz. In fact, it’s genuinely a 10/10 shirt that could do with a reboot à la Germany’s 2018 World Cup kits. Go on Adidas, you know you want to. 

So that’s that: Manchester United’s best-ever home retro shirt revealed! Do you agree with us or should another strip have taken the top spot? Let us know in the comments.

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