Great one-offs – Manchester United, 1991

We are approaching the 27th anniversary of Manchester United’s first European trophy under Sir Alex Ferguson, the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Barcelona were United’s opponents in the final, with both sides changing kits, which was often the practice back then. Not too long ago, we looked at Barça’s 1980s change kits and they were in their light blue shirts, which meant that United couldn’t wear their own blue alternative.

The previous white away strip was used that season as a third shirt against Pécsi Mecsek earlier in the competition and also at Aston Villa in the league (thanks to United Kits, as always). As it was a final, a new set of shirts would have been produced with special inscriptions and even if they hadn’t planned on doing so, the prohibition on shirt sponsorship made it necessary.

So it was that, instead of a shirt style which was three years old, adidas came up with what was essentially a white version of the home shirt released the previous summer, though without the zig-zags running through the fabric.

The home shorts were used as well as one-off socks (the 1988-90 away socks had been used as the home alternatives). Oddly, the shirts featured Football League patches on the sleeves.

Two Mark Hughes goals gave United victory and commemorative replica shirts were produced, with the words ‘European Cup Winners’ Cup’ above the crest, whereas the match-worn examples didn’t have ‘European’, while ‘Winners’ replaced ‘1991’ below the badge.

Despite going on sale, it didn’t become the official third shirt, though. In 1991-92, at Villa and West Ham, the older away shirt was once again worn, giving it four years of service.

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