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Jersey Week: Ranking Manchester United’s five best kit ‘collections’

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Which year did United have the best home, away, and alternate kit combo?

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Final - Barcelona v Manchester United - Stadio Olimpico Photo by Nick Potts - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

There’s a lot of Manchester United kit talk going on around here lately. Whether it’s our favorite ones, our least favorite ones, or leaks of new ones.

Today we’re gonna talk about the entire wardrobe. Having one great kit is nice, but what if you have to wear your change strip? What if your nice kit is the change strip and you rarely get to see it?

This is a ranking of the five best kit collections United have had in recent memory. Which season did United have the best kits?

All three (home, away, alternate), kits are factored in, so if one of your away shirts is a dud (think the gray one in 2017/18 or whatever color this year’s away shirt is), that’s going to detract points from the rest.

When doing the rankings I tried not to factor in the shirt sponsor, but let’s be honest, you kinda have to. The shirt sponsor is a massive part of the kit. For some, it’s how the shirt is remembered and it’s certainly how certain eras are remembered (you can literally break up eras of the club based on the shirt sponsor — it’s almost scary). Side note: when are we getting out of the Chevrolet era?

Fair warning: this list is going to skew towards more recent kits.

Why is that?

Well, with the benefit of hindsight we can all agree that fashion in the 90s was RIDICULOUS. If you’re watching The Last Dance documentary, this is certainly at the forefront of your minds right now. As much as we have nostalgia for the days of Roy Keane and David Beckham and the Class of ‘92, those baggy jerseys in the 90s look terrible. I’m sorry, but they do.

Why did we let footballers wear them? I mean, this is from 2006 and this shirt looks like it’s eight sizes too big on Schweinsteiger...

I can’t believe it took us until 2007 to realize these flappy jerseys weren’t that aerodynamic. I try to look past it, but it probably plays a role here.

Before we begin, let’s take a look at few beauts that just miss out due to one particular shirt bringing them down.

2003-04

I’m a little more lukewarm than most on the Vodafone shirts for two reasons. There was a lot of black in the home kits and I’m more favorable to the Red and white ones rather than red and black. It was also basically the least successful period under Ferguson during the Premier League era.

This red one is better than most (as you’ll see) but it loses points for being a repeat of the year before. The white shirt has just a little too much going on. As nice as the black ones are, and are remembered for a great win at Anfield, the other two just weigh it down too much.

2015-16

Adidas’ first year in charge of our shirts got off to a real promising start. A simple red kit, a clean white, and a nice black. The Chevy logo detracts from the red one a bit — as it always does — but this one misses out for one reason. The black kit.

The black is a good kit but it has two problems. The stripes aren’t actually red, they’re orange, and outside of the Premier League the numbers were orange too. When that happened there was just too much going on. In the Premier League they were white, which was perfect, especially when they wore them with white shorts.

The problem was when they didn’t wear them with white shorts...

Who in the world thought those were a good idea?

2016-17

The home kit might be the best red shirt we’ve had in the Adidas era, thanks to the vertical stripes under the arm — it’s a really nice touch and makes it a bit different than the other Adidas kits. The white shirts might be one of the prettiest kits we’ve ever worn. So simple, so clean, so beautiful.

This year’s misses the top five because of that blue. It’s just awful. I don’t hate blue kits, but I despise when they have red in them. Something just looked off every time they wore them. This one is better than the monstrosity we had from 2005-2007, but it still ain’t good.

On to the top five:

5. 2007-08

I wasn’t too thrilled with the white stripe on the back of the red shirts when they first came out but let’s be honest, are those shirts things of beauty? Yes. Does that the fact that we were wildly successful this year influence this decision? Probably.

The blacks that year were also gorgeous and it’s a shame we didn’t wear them more. For some reason whenever we come out with a black kit, there’s always one kit that brings down the triumvirate (03-04, 17-18, 19-20). This year it’s the white, which is just a repeat of the previous year’s away shirt, which matched the template for the home and away shirts. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good either.

4. 2012-13

Another one that should be higher if not for the repeat third shirt of the previous season. I’m not too fond of that blue and black one, but the red and whites this season were so good it elevates the collection to number 4.

The white away kit that year was particularly unique and impressive. Very simple in its white and black scheme with just the right amount of red brought in (even making those weird collars look good). The checkerboard red was also a nice design. Aiding these shirts is the fact that as soon as you see them you’ll immediately have great memories of Robin van Persie.

3. 1998-99

Here you go. I’m throwing you a bone. Everyone loves the Sharp/Umbro shirts from the 90s so we’re throwing in the Treble ones. Does the fact that we won the treble make these better? Yes. Because otherwise what is there? The black shirts have weird green stripes on them and the white ones have WAAAAY too much going on. But: memories, man.

2. 2002-03

The last decade has seen way too many years where one kit is a disaster, and it gave a collection from the Vodafone shirts era a chance to sneak in. As I said, these are the best red shirts of the Vodafone era and the original year they were used. The blue is nice and simple: just blue and white, a throwback to the European Cup win in 1968. The white shirt is also exceptionally clean and simple, not trying to do too much.

1. 2008-09

Wow. What a coincidence that #2 and #1 have the same color scheme? It’s also a bit ironic because if I was in charge of picking United’s three shirts each year I’d actually pick Red, White, and Black.

Does this kit lose points because the home kit is a repeat of the year before? Yes it does. Does that matter? No it doesn’t. The kit is that nice, we were that successful in it, and the other two kits are nice enough to elevate it.

Even though the white was worn for two brutal losses that season (Anfield, that game in Rome) it still stands up. That kit is one of the cleanest looks we’ve ever had, especially when it was worn with white shorts. We actually kept it the following season as our third kit but rarely ever wore it. A shame.

Of all the blue kits we’ve ever worn, this one was easily the best. That’s probably due to it’s simplicity, and you know, it was more form fitting than the Vodafone one six years earlier. There’s hardly a bad memory to be had in those kits as well. Losing to Arsenal at the Emirates stands out, but that’s negated by the 3-1 win at the Emirates in the Champions League semifinal. We won when it counted.

What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Let me know!