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Kitstory Episode #1: “The Ole” (Manchester United 1997-2000 European Home Kit)

In 1997, Manchester United had just lost Eric Cantona to retirement (at 30 years old) and in turn acquired Teddy Sherringham as a direct replacement from Spurs for a whopping £3.5m. The coveted No.7 shirt was handed over to David Beckham, Roy Keane was given the captaincy armband and the only other transfer incoming was Henning Berg from Blackburn for £5m (pictured).

T’was a world where shirt releases weren’t as regular as today. No season refreshes required as this iconic shirt stood the test of time and was donned by United players playing in European matches for 3 seasons before being replaced.

Umbro was the shirt provider, a mainstay of 90s shirts (Brazil 94 winners kit, Ajax 95 European champs kit, and so on!). Interestingly, Umbro was founded in 1920 in Wilmslow just a 20 minute drive away from Old Trafford. Also, fun fact, Nike actually bought Umbro back in 2007 for £285m!

Underneath the badge was Sharp, A major Japanese company known for making electronic products. During it’s Man United partnership (1982-2000) Sharp was one of the world’s most recognised brands, but since Vodafone took over in 2001 – Sharp admitted that it’s removal from the shirt heavily damaged it’s UK status as it was seen as a “decline”. The last football shirt they sponsored was the 2001-2003 Inverness kit.

The detail on this kit is gorgeous, with incredibly subtle graphics hidden in plain sight. Across the front is a faint Champion’s League logo with “MUFC” striped down the side. The faintness only really becoming visible on real close inspection. Manchester United’s crest had also been given a boost, with the silver shield surround adorned with a single golden star representing the one last time they had won the European Cup (back in 1968 in a 4-1 final victory over Benfica).

A kit worn by some of Manchester United’s most legendary players, including none other that current gaffer Ole Gunner Solskjaer who wore this kit in the 1999 Champion’s League Final. Gary Neville, David Beckham, Andy Cole, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes…the list goes on.

The finest kit, fitting for what some may call the finest seasons of Manchester United’s history. “The Ole” is an icon in the football kit world, representing a glorious time for English football across Europe.

Last fun fact – this would be the last time Manchester United fans could pull off the classic “Cantona collar pop” for ten years, as the collar was removed from their home kits since 2000, only to be reintroduced in 2010 for one season, the same season Chris Smalling, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Bebe and Marnick Vermijl arrived at Old Trafford (yeah, I know, who is Vermijl – he made ONE League Cup appearance).

Author, Jack Goodwin. @JackAGoodwin