One kit, three makers

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Manchester-United-1980-1981-adidas-away-01Manchester-United-1980-1981-adidas-home-01With Admiral experiencing financial difficulties in the summer of 1980, Manchester United had to quickly ink a deal with adidas.

In pre-season friendlies, the shirts had stripes only on the shoulders, while the Admiral socks were initially still worn before the adidas set arrived, with black favoured for both the home and away kits.

However, in 1980-81, adidas didn’t provide a third shirt and when United went to The Dell to face Southampton in March of that season, they were faced with a problem.

Manchester-United-1980-1981-Umbro-adidas-third-Southampton-01A blue Admiral third shirt had been used over the past few seasons, but, with commercial considerations beginning to come into play, United couldn’t take to the field displaying the logo of a competitor to adidas.

Instead, they opted for a logoless Umbro third shirt. This had been introduced, along with similar home and away versions, during the 1974-75 campaign, which United spent in Division 2 after their relegation the previous season.

The Red Devils had begun that season in the previous shirts, introduced in 1971, which had an inset v-neck.

The shorts were adidas, albeit without a logo either, and the Admiral socks were similarly devoid of advertising, meaning that there wasn’t as much of an issue with wearing them.


For 1981-82, there was a blue version of the adidas home kit. It was worn with white shorts which now featured the adidas logo and club crest, though the socks remained the same as in the Admiral era. Away at Stoke in 1981-82, the black shorts from the white change kit were worn.

Throughout the 1980s, adidas would continue to go with a white away/blue third philosophy, though the final two years of their first stint with United saw the infamous ‘Madchester’ blue and white change strip. The previous 1988-90 white away was retained as a third option, though a special one-off white shirt was produced for the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

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