United in Blue 1986-88

The Red Devils of Manchester United have used a blue shirt for many a decade. The first time United wore a blue shirt as second choice apparel was in 1906. Obviously United are THE team that everyone relates to as the team in red but that blue shirt of Old Trafford has been part of the furniture for generations.  United won its first European Cup in a blue shirt and since those memorable days of the late 1960s the blue shirt has seen many a design change, and a number of shirt sponsors come and go.  Today in 2016 we see football teams chop and change the design of their team kits on a very regular basis, it’s something we’ve long taken for granted.  The 1980s was the decade where all the enthusiasm and interest football fans enjoy today regarding their respective clubs on the pitch attire was born. Yes, the decade before saw sportswear companies like Admiral introduce more imaginative and bolder designs into team kits, however it wouldn’t be until the 80’s that fans and the clubs themselves really latched onto the importance of the football kit, the clubs saw it as a means to make financial gains, the fans saw it as a means to be nearer to their beloved club.  United certainly had a memorable time in the 80’s with its kit.  Adidas first became United’s kit supplier at the start of the 1980 – 1981 season, succeeding Admiral.  When it comes to the kit many United fans see the 1980’s as a golden era in the clubs history, and you can see their point.  The Red Devils had some beautiful shirts in the 1980’s, in fact the club didn’t release a bad one, they were all fantastic designs.  Apart from the design change in the mid 80’s there wasn’t much difference to the look of the shirt. There was the V-neck, the stripes on the shoulders and sleeves and the Sharp logo on the front on the red, white and of course the blue shirt.

United’s blue shirt of the 1986 – 1988 has to be one United’s best ever blue shirts, it was a classic design with the embroidered United club badge with the shirt itself made out of shiny polyester, it looked the mutts nuts.

It was only worn twice that season, both times against Southampton.   The 86 – 87 season for the Red Devils was a game changer for the club, out went Big Ron and in came Alex Ferguson from Scottish club Aberdeen. Ferguson would need four years or so to turn the team around, four years of below par United but it would be well worth it for the United fans.  Ferguson took over on the 6th of November of that season; United’s top scorer for that season was Peter Davenport with sixteen goals in all competitions.  Davenport, a native of Birkenhead, was purchased from Nottingham Forest for £750,000. 

The Red Devils lost their first three games of that season against Arsenal, West Ham and Charlton Athletic.  United would have to wait until the 5th game of the season to see their first win which was a 5 – 1 hammering of Southampton at Old Trafford.  After that rare win for Atkinson’s men the defeats would continue.  The writing was on the wall for Ron Atkinson, five years in the United hot seat with two FA Cups on the mantelpiece, things were going downhill fast at Old Trafford.  The situation didn’t improve that much under Ferguson during that 86 – 87 season. United eventually finished in 11th place in the old Division One. Those two games in the blue shirt?  As already mentioned they were against Southampton, once in the league the other in the League Cup which was 4 – 1 thumping for United at The Dell, Utd's consolation coming from Davenport.

The league game was played at the Dell on 3rd January 1987 - Jesper Olsen scoring in a 1 – 1 draw.

During October 1986, Olsen had a bust-up with midfield colleague Remi Moses and by the end of the month he was put on the transfer list by Ron Atkinson. However, once Big Ron was sacked Ferguson took Olsen off the transfer list and he would stay at Old Trafford for two more years.

Ferguson surprised everybody by not going straight into the transfer market, in those days players were bought and sold throughout the season, transfer windows did not exist.  Eventually Fergie would go on to bring in the likes of  Viv Anderson and Brian McClair. 

The blue shirt was worn on McClair & Anderson's league debuts against Southampton at the Dell, 15th August 1987 - opening game of the season.

United fans were packed into the Dell, and many were locked out unable to get in, on a scorching hot day.

Norman Whiteside scored goals both in a 2-2 draw.

This was the 3rd and final time this fantastic shirt was worn.

United lost just five games in the 1987-88 season and were the only side that posed a threat to Liverpool's continued dominance of the Championship. Although they finished 2nd, at that time all English teams were excluded from European competition as a result of the Heysel stadium disaster.

Richard Fenton - August 2016

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