Roll up and enjoy a bizarre corner of history as we look through some weird and wacky designs of Manchester United shirts that were made into prototypes but, for whatever reason, never released to the general public on sale.
Umbro became United’s kit manufacturer in 1992. Their initial idea was to launch a retrospective range. Obviously a green and gold shirt, representative of the club’s Newton Heath days, was released, but the initial idea for the home shirt was quite different.
Look at the black lace, the dominant white, and, perhaps most shockingly of all, no collar! A cult look pioneered by Eric Cantona would not have taken off in quite the same way. This was definitely one worth ditching as the shirt United ultimately chose was a classic.
Clearly, Umbro were going a mix of the old and the new. This tie-dye effect actually made it to release but it was a blue shirt and not a white and grey effort as seen here. Garish perhaps, not not as offensive to the eyes as this alternate version of the green and gold classic…
As you can see, there’s a lot going on.
The blue shirt was only worn for one season before the club chose a black strip instead. For a while, this alternate blue, with a lace, was on the table.
Because the black shirt was in the second year of Umbro’s cycle there was the idea to take it out of circulation and re-release a black strip with a red trim. Given the controversy around the number of strips United were releasing at the time it was probably best this one never got released. Besides, it’s not as nice.
It’s time to move forward to the treble era! And there were a few choices to pick from in terms of away colours that might have had United’s history looking a little different.
First of all, this blue reverse version of the 98/99 home shirt, which is actually pretty smart. As is the white version as seen here.
Though we must admit, the Viewcam strip with the black stripe across the middle was made immortal by Ryan Giggs’ goal against Arsenal.
“Viewcam” was missing from this prototype of the towel kit from 1999. Made from allegedly absorbent material to prevent sweat from impacting performance, the slightest of drizzle would cause this one to stick to you uncomfortably.
This home kit was the last of Umbro’s for United, and this is a test image from before the club switched to Vodafone as their shirt sponsor.
Here is a prototype goalkeeper shirt from the same period. That’s a long zip!
This version of the 2000 away white shirt is probably a little classier than the one with the big blue shoulder pads which was released.
Talking of changing sponsors. This Nike 2006 effort was put together before AIG came on board. This was surely the best of the Nike efforts and the sponsor looks less jarring, perhaps because they are natural colours of Vodafone anyway.
This 09/10 prototype features a white trim to make the black less bold than it ultimately turned out to be.
The chevron shirt was not hugely popular (there were some Saudi Telecom knock off strips you can find online which actually looked quite decent); this alleged one from around 2014 is garish to the extreme.
There’s a lot going on on this one too, which looks like an early version of the 15/16 shirt. Thankfully Adidas went for something more understated on their return.
So, what do you think? What’s your favourite? Do you wish United had worn any of these? Which is the absolute worst?
If you’ve found any others, please feel free to share them with us in the comments.