On January 17, 1981, Granada Television had planned to show extended highlights of the Division 2 game between Bolton Wanderers and Derby County.
A waterlogged pitch at Burnden Park meant a late switch was required, and so the Division 1 meeting of Manchester City and Middlesbrough at Maine Road was the logical choice. There was a problem, though.
At the time, strict advertising rules meant that sponsors’ logos were not allowed on shirts for games shown on TV – see here for how Coventry City had to deal with this problem on their heavily-branded ‘Talbot’ shirts.
As the home team, City had a set of blank shirts readily to hand but Middlesbrough had travelled with just their normal adidas kit, bearing the mark of Datsun Cleveland. And then somebody had a brainwave – there was another team close by who played in red adidas shirts.
Unsponsored Manchester United shirts were picked up from Old Trafford and that’s what Middlesbrough wore with their usual shorts and socks – presumably the most recent instance of the United shirt being part of an all-red ensemble.
The change didn’t do Boro much good, though, as City – perhaps inspired by the crest facing them – won 3-2.