Club Classics: Manchester United away kits of the 1990s

Often innovative and forever Sharp, the 1990s saw Adidas and Umbro use Manchester United as a canvas to develop trends which still influence football kit design today.

Whether you love them or loathe them, United’s shirts were always memorable and heralded a period of sustained success under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Enough time has passed for the decade’s designs to be appreciated by fans young and old, and with the new Premier League season just around the corner, here’s a run-down of the Red Devils’ away kits of the 1990s.

Cup-Winner’s Cup Final White 1991

Manchester United, 1991, Cup Winners Cup Final, Kit,
Adidas’ special all-white with red trim Cup Winners’ Cup Final kit

The shirts worn by the club as they picked up their first piece of European silverware under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Famous for glory as much as clean aesthetics, these special edition Adidas shirts shared the same DNA as the Red Devils’ home kit of the time but came in a neat all-white format.

United lifted the now defunct title thanks to a Mark Hughes brace in a 2-1 victory over a Barcelona side featuring Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup in Rotterdam.

Poor old Barca would have just loved losing to a team all in white.

The Snowflake Shirt 1990-92

Man Utd, away kit, 1992, adidas, snowflake
The classic blue and white “snowflake” United shirt

Contrary to what some in the media will tell you, football did actually exist before the foundation of the Premier League in 1992.

There was also a time when football kits were not changed every year, meaning that fans and rivals alike had time to love and hate football kits over the course of a couple of seasons.

Ferguson’s men, including a 17 year-old Ryan Giggs, lined up in this cunning mix between the traditional United change colours of white and blue.

Worn at the end of the old First Division era, they were the last away kits made by Adidas before Umbro took over control of creativity at the outset of the Premier League.

This shirt from an Adidas’ golden period in football shirt design is now viewed as one of the club’s greatest and the unique pattern was later updated on United tracksuit tops and away kits.

A modern classic.

The Big Blue Badge Shirt 1992-93

Manchester United, 1992/93, away, umbro, classic kits
The first Manchester United away shirt of the Premier League era

Umbro’s first away shirt offering coincided with the dawn of the Premier League.

Worn in victories at Highbury and Anfield, this blue shirt with an over-sized version of the club’s badge reflected in the shirt’s fabric was successfully sported by captain Steve Bruce, Lee Sharpe & Co on the road to winning the inaugural Premier League crown.

Newton Heath 1992-94

Newton Heath, Manchester United, Umbro
The original Newton Heath colours

One of the most iconic football shirts of the early Premier League years and proof that it’s not just today’s designers who look back in time for inspiration for today’s kits.

In perhaps the ultimate retro re-hash, Umbro paid tribute to United’s original kits when they were founded as Newton Heath in 1878.

Right down to the drawstring lace-up collar, this shirt had an Edwardian look in mind with our outstanding memory of the green and yellow halved shirts being of Eric Cantona with his collar turned-up, hands on hips, reacting to a scandalous Vinnie Jones challenge that earned only a yellow card, all with his customary air of nonchalance. Coolness personified.

Black Viewcam 1993-95

Manchester United, Black, Viewcam
The menace in black

The Reds were particularly menacing in black.

When Premier League referees dropped their traditional men in black look for erm, sage green, United stepped into the breach and adopted black as their change colours.

Although black shirts had been worn before, we remember these Sharp looking Umbro shirts as innovative as they were among the very first to be worn in top-flight English football (QPR pipped them to that honour).

Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick reaction to a mouthy Palace fan at Selhurst Park saw him rightfully banned and led to the famous “Seagulls” speech.

Whilst we don’t necessarily condone violence here at Sartorial Soccer, a large part of us more than secretly sides with the Frenchman in that scrap.

Yes the shirt was worn by Paul Ince and a cast of Manchester United heroes, but in our minds, we can’t separate this shirt from the great Gallic anti-hero.

Blue and white stripes 1994-96 & October 96

1990s, Manchester United, away kit, Umbro
This shirt had the names of United heroes woven into its fabric

After the black shirts came these far more friendly and well meaning blue and white shirts that featured the names of every player to have played for Manchester United woven into the fabric.

Probably most famous for Fergie’s half-time switch at The Dell from the invisible grey to a set of shirts a little easier on the eye.

The blue & white striped shirt made another cameo at The Dell in October 1996 when they were brought out of retirement, only to see United succumb to a 6-3 defeat to the Saints.

Happier memories abide in the form of victories on the road helping the Reds to a double-winning season in 1995/96.

They were nice enough if unspectacular.

The Invisible Man-chester United Shirts 1995-96

Grey Manchester United shirt, Umbro, Premier League, Dell, Alex Ferguson, Southampton
The invisible Manchester United shirt

Famous for the demolition at The Dell which led to one of the strangest moments in Premier League kit history.

With the bang on-form, title-chasing Red Devils 3-0 down at half time to struggling Southampton, Fergie instructed a half-time substitution and the introduction of the blue and white shirts United had brought along seemingly as spares. The fact they traveled with two sets of kits suggests he already had his reservations about this kit which is regularly voted among football’s all-time worst.

Unusually, this is a kit that United never won a game in, but in many ways there was absolutely nothing wrong with this shirt, aside from the fact that in practice, the colour scheme is hard for the human eye to pick out against the backdrop of a crowded stadium. In other words one to file under “nice enough for fans wearing with jeans and trainers, but should never have been a football shirt.”

United recovered from the 3-1 defeat to beat Kevin Keegan’s (“I will love it if we beat them, love it!”) Newcastle United to the title.

Don’t worry, we buy the excuse Fergie.

Giggsy’s Hairy Chest 1997-99

Giggs, wonder goal, Manchester United, 1990s, away kit, white
Ryan Giggs shoots past Seaman to send Manchester United through to Wembley

The white shirt more famous for being spun around Ryan Giggs’ head in celebration after one of the all-time great FA Cup goals.

Sponsored by Sharp Viewcam, this white shirt with black and red trim was used by United in the FA Cup Semi-Final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park, when Giggs went on a dazzling run, beating the Gunners defence and twisting the blood in their veins before slamming the ball past David Seaman.

Sometimes shirts are remembered for moments of glory as much as their cut, colour and design. For their role in the Treble winning season of 1998/99, this white shirt is one of those classic examples.

What memories do you have of Manchester United kits from the 1990s and what’s your favourite change shirt from this period?

Have we missed your personal favourite?

Please let us know in the comments below.

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