Belfast Telegraph

Only one winner in United's shirts row

Fans will see red over kit fiasco

By John Laverty

MANCHESTER United have already done the Double this season.

MANCHESTER United have already done the Double this season.

The rip-off Double, that is.

You know what I'm talking about, and the 'shirt' fiasco at the Dell on Saturday merely underlines it.

A change of colour at half- time didn't bring them a change of fortune against Southampton.

They were a grey lot in the first 45 minutes, and full of the blues in the second.

But Alex Ferguson had already taken it as red long before that.

In fact, Saturday was the first time in the Premiership this year that United had turned out in anything other than the traditional red shirts.

You have to go back to their 2-0 defeat at Anfield on December 17 for the last time they were forced to change.

And when I say 'forced,' I mean it.

Ferguson is a traditionalist, and so, too, are the vast majority of United fans. They're also a superstitious lot.

And when the manager decided after Anfield that his team would be in red on every other available occasion this season, the fans welcomed it.

After all, up until Saturday United had only gleaned one point from the four previous occasions when the weren't the Red Devils.

It's ridiculous of course to suggest that the colour of the shirts had anything do do with the standard of football, and some of the excuses trotted out after the 3-1 defeat were just laughable.

But psychology plays a big part in soccer and it's well known that United's players, to a man, detest that grey strip.

And seeing United off- colour, so to speak, is a psychological boost for the opposition.

It's almost akin to being told that your opponents' star player is injured and won't be playing.

We're getting away from the point, however. And the point is that United are trying to have it both ways.

They have made millions from the merchandising of their frequently-changing away strips.

Remember the blue 'franked' one? The all-black one? The yellow and green 'Newton Heath' one?And now this season's efforts, both displayed on Saturday.

The only people pleased about the farcical half-time change of clothing were the powers-that-be at Umbro, United's shirt manufacturers.

For the first time in history, they were able to advertise BOTH away strips simultaneously on prime-time TV.

And my, didn't they need it!Ferguson has been under constant pressure this season to 'rotate' his away strips and wear the change kits as often as possible; he simply refused to do it.

That was bad news for the manufacturers, who had heavily marketed the new colours last summer.

But up until Saturday the only time you saw the away strip was when you drove past a park or playground to witness young boys and girls parading around in them.

Yes, the same kids who begged their parents to shell out upwards of £60 last year for the new rigs _ because their heroes would be wearing them on TV, week in, week out.

It didn't pan out that way. A mere five outings in the grey strip.

And having ripped the parents off in the first place courtesy of their ever changing array of colours United have now completed the double whammy by refusing to wear them.

You certainly won't see Ryan Giggs and company (with a small 'c' although I can't think why) wearing the detested grey again.

How parents will react to wear yet another change remains to be seen.

But the bad news is that United, as well as replacing the grey kit with a white one, will also be bringing out not only a new red strip for next season but also a replacement for the blue strip they used on Saturday.

Umbro have already sent their designs to the club for approval; they were promptly sent back.

Why? Because the new shirts didn't have a collar _ and that would have left Eric Cantona without his world famous, turned-up trademark.

So the development costs went down the pan. But United and Umbro needn't worry.

At the end of the day, it will be the fans who'll end up paying for it.


From Belfast Telegraph