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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.

Middlesbrough-1981-kit-Manchester-United-shirts-Manchester-City-TV-no-sponsor-01

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.

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