- As ever, United Kits was an invaluable resource
Since the launch of Manchester United’s mould-breaking black third kit in 1993 – not the first in the UK, though – the colour has become a regular feature in the club’s change-kit palette.
However, despite the popularity of that first example, it would be another five years before Umbro revisited black as an alternative, with blue, white and, of course, grey favoured in between.
With the late 1990s seeing a lot of pearl-clutching as the number of kit releases increased, in 1998 Umbro decided to go for an unusual approach in doubling up third shirts as training tops – though you could say that all that achieved was reducing the options available to the consumer.
For United, that meant a black shirt trimmed in lime and white (the kit completists, like your correspondent, would have preferred red trim rather than lime, allowing interchangeability with the home strip rather than two sets of black shorts and socks). Everton and Chelsea had the same design, both in yellow third kits that were effectively identical – the replicas differed from the match shirts though in that they had much larger Umbro logos.
The previous three third kits made for United by Umbro had been mid-season introductions but this made its debut in the autumn – luckily, too, as its only two outings were within a fortnight of each other. First, United lost 3-0 to champions Arsenal on September 20 and then, on October 3, they beat Southampton at the Dell by the same scoreline. The latter was a rare example of a United away game where they didn’t solve a shorts-clash.
Apart from that, the white second kit was sufficient to deal with any other away games where a change was needed, though of course a ‘third kit’ of a different kind – the European strip launched in 1997 – was quite prominent as United won the treble of Champions League, Premiership and FA Cup.