Manchester United is a proud club with an enviably long list of great players, managers, trophies and milestones. It would be unfair to label the Red Devils as anything less than the greatest English club in the history of the game.
However, when it comes to the extensive wardrobe of past kits the club has donned since it was founded as Newton Heath in 1878, there’s no question some mistakes have been made in the kit room.
It might come as a surprise to learn that United originally played under the aforementioned name of Newton Heath and wore green and gold between 1878 and 1887. As was the case with most clubs in those days, the original kit was far from pretty and subsequently evolved over the course of the following 138 years.
There’s no formula for creating the perfect team strip, though, and the Red Devils have since sported their fair share of atrocious getups albeit while adding to their bulging trophy cabinet with more consistency than any other club in the country.
Containing a variety of the most putrid home, away, third and goalkeeper kits ever worn by Manchester United players, Here are the top 20 ugliest Manchester United kits of all-time.
20 2012-13 Home
Nike traditionally kept things simple with each edition of the Manchester United home kits during their 13-year partnership with the club. The American sportswear giants got the famous red strip pretty spot on each season between 2002-03 and 2014-15, but the design team was uncharacteristically off the mark for the 2012-13 campaign. Unfortunately, the Red Devils spent Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at Old Trafford running around in a tonal gingham pattern more suited to a silk blanket than a football kit.
19 2013-14 Away
The following season, Nike didn’t seem to learn their lesson and went with another quilt-inspired design for the Manchester United 2013-14 away strip. The deep blue color scheme of the kit is easy on the eye, but the checkered pattern underlying the shirt gives off a weird pyjamas vibe that’s difficult to ignore. This isn’t the worst version of the Red Devils’ away uniform, but it’s one that’s unlikely to be intentionally recreated in the near future.
18 1994-96 Home
As previously mentioned, simplicity has been an aesthetic staple of the Manchester United uniform for much of the club’s history. Naturally, disastrous results ensued when Umbro attempted to tamper with the classic design and print a large faded graphic of Old Trafford across the torso of the 1994-96 home kit. Combined with neat black, socks, collar and sleeve cuffs, the rest of the strip didn’t look half bad; but there’s no question the Red Devils will be eager to avoid repeating the mistake of overcomplicating teamwear.
17 1992-93 Away
The 90s was a disappointing decade for Manchester United supporters in terms of the away strip designs served up by Umbro. This blue strip, a particularly ugly number, was the English kit manufacturer’s first effort since the Red Devils split with long-term partners Adidas at the conclusion of the 1991-92 season. Similar to the club’s 1994-96 home kit, this uniform featured an underlying graphic of the United crest across the torso, sleeves and shorts; tacky to the say the least.
16 1996-98 Home
If you recognise this kit, it’s likely because this is the one David Beckham was wearing when he scored ‘that’ brilliant goal from inside his own half against Wimbledon in August 1996. Apart from the memories of this goal and Manchester United lifting the Premier League trophy, this strip has few other hallmarks. With plenty of room for improvement on the home kit of the previous season, Umbro made the senseless decision to replace the icky Old Trafford graphic with two even more tasteless features: two tone red sleeves and a black and white gradient collar.
15 1998-99 Third
Third kits present an opportunity for manufacturers to break free from the shackles of traditions often associated with home and away kits and experiment with more abstract ideas. These back-up uniforms are rarely purchased and worn by fans and even less so by players on the pitch, but sometimes this ostensible safety net can lead to rather outlandish creations. This Manchester United number, an all-black design featuring pine green trim on the shorts and socks, will surely go down as one of the Red Devils’ worst third kits ever.
14 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final
A 2-1 victory over Barcelona to secure the European Cup Winners’ Cup is probably just enough to gloss over the embarrassment of wearing this atrocious special edition kit. Luckily only a one-off uniform for the showdown at Feijenoord Stadion in Rotterdam, the strip featured an all-white base with a light grey geometric pattern all over the shirt, plus red trim on the sleeves, shorts, socks and customary adidas stripes. It mightn't be much of a looker, but fancy clothing usually takes a back seat when cup final silverware is at stake.
13 1971-72 Third
Manchester United’s first third kit of the 1970s was certainly one to remember. The 1971-72 strip saw the Red Devils wear a combination of bright yellow and blue for the first time in the club’s history. Apart from its offbeat color scheme, the kit was about as plain as it gets with only contrasting trim on the sleeve cuffs, socks and collar to add any ‘spice’ to the design. This effort would be the last United kit to feature lemon yellow as a base color, perhaps for good reason.
12 1984-86 Away
It seems unthinkable to imagine Adidas removing its famous three stripe symbol from any kit, but that’s exactly what the German manufacturers did with the design of the Red Devils’ 1984-86 away kit. Instead, the classic touch was replaced by a black streak on the front of each shirt shoulder, while the shorts were covered in a terrible red pinstripe pattern, overlapping the Adidas three stripe feature. It wasn’t a good look for the famous English club and their away kit for the following campaign saw a return to the more conventional Adidas appearance.
11 1995-96 Away
You couldn’t blame a Manchester United supporter if they believe this grey creation is the worst kit in their 114-year history. Manufactured by Umbro for the 1995-96 campaign, this awful strip was seemingly as cursed as it was ugly; the Red Devils lost four and drew one of the five games during in which it was worn. United wore this kit versus Southampton in August 1996, but it was famously replaced during the half-time break. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his players couldn’t make out each other’s grey figures against the backdrop of the crowd and it was never worn again.
10 2001-02 Third
A unique crest is the most common way of commemorating a club anniversary, but Manchester United went down a different route to celebrate its 100-year milestone. The Red Devils’ 2001-02 away shirt looked a run of the mill black and white design at face value, but could be turned inside out to double as a browny gold third strip. The feature was a cheeky gimmick more than anything else, but the novelty of ‘wearing two shirts at once’ did little to improve the despicable color of the third kit.
9 2015-16 Third
Manchester United is one of the unfortunate victims of Adidas’ decision to incorporate a striking gradient feature into the shorts design of many club kits for the 2015-16 season. Considering the slickness of the deep black and orange trim with white socks combination, the Red Devils’ third kit for the current season could scrape as passable without the black to white fade on the shorts and jagged pattern across the torso. This strip offers a lesson for Adidas – sometimes keeping it simple is best.
8 1894-92 Away
This green and gold monstrosity was the last away kit worn by Newton Heath before adopting the name Manchester United in 1902. To be fair, few clubs wore anything particularly fancy during this era, but this number is simply too hideous to omit from the list. Green and yellow are two colors that rarely go hand in hand while achieving any aesthetic appeal, especially when coupled with dark blue knee-length shorts and football socks. Looking back on these getups footballers once wore, it’s a relief that 100 years has seen the sport do away with three-quarter shorts.
7 1993-95 Goalkeeper
This is far from the worst goalkeeper kit ever to grace a football pitch, but this Manchester United number is certainly one worth mentioning in the context of ugly teamwear. Embracing the typical overzealous multicolor theme so common throughout the 1990s, one of the Umbro kit designers thought it would be a brilliant idea to cover the 1993-95 kit in a yellow and blue diamond-like geometric pattern over a white base color. If the written description sounds terrible enough, save yourself from looking at the accompanying picture.
6 1992-93 Goalkeeper
If the first two goalkeeper kits to feature in this article have taught you anything, it’s probably that bright shapes and streaks were certainly in vogue during the 1990s. The Manchester United goalie strip for the 1992-93 campaign was reasonably low-key in comparison to other shirts of the time, but the Christmas green base with streaks of red and blue slashed across the shirt probably isn’t a look one would want to wear in front of 60,000 people at Old Trafford.
5 1992-94 Third
Manchester United hadn’t worn green nor yellow for nearly 20 years before this third kit was unveiled for the 1992 season. Although the colors are reminiscent of those worn by Newton Heath between 1878 and 1887, Umbro could’ve done a better job of paying homage to the Red Devils’ roots. With the horrible color scheme coupled with plain black shorts and socks, this disastrous effort is topped off by the despicable black lace-up collar.
4 1992-94 Home
Speaking of lace-up collars, it’s amazing how one small feature can completely destroy the aesthetic quality of an item of clothing. Irrespective of why the Umbro design team thought replacing the collar buttons of a football jersey with a shoelace eyelets would look appealing, the decision has arguably led to the creation of the worst home kit in the Red Devils’ history. Whether knotting the lace up or leaving it loose, not even a young David Beckham could pull this one off back in the early 90s.
3 1997-98 Goalkeeper
Another season in the 90s, another goalkeeper kit seemingly inspired by a set of pyjamas. Despite stiff competition from other jerseys made in the same decade, the 1997-98 edition of the Manchester United keeper kit is unquestionably one of the weirder designs dreamt up by a sportswear manufacturer. The shirt design features plain black sleeves with a two tone bar-like pattern which is interrupted by distorting swirls in the lower part of the shirt. It’s an exceptionally strange one, but not quite enough to top this list.
2 1990-91 Goalkeeper
There’s no easy way to accurately describe this shirt, but some kind of a cross between aqua-colored television noise on top of a wetsuit-like texture comes pretty close. It might not have the disgustingly fluorescent features of the classic goalkeeper kits of the 1990s, but this jersey is a different kind of eyesore. With virtually no redeeming characteristics in sight, even the towering 6’3” figure of Peter Schmeichel looked ridiculous wearing this getup in his first season at Old Trafford.
1 1990-91 Away
It really would be a crime if the title of Manchester United’s ugliest kit ever fell to one of the great club’s home uniforms. Fortunately, this number from the 1990-91 season takes the cake by some distance. An away strip with barely a hint of Manchester United class about it, the shirt is entirely covered in an awful pattern of pointy blue shapes that would look more at home on a dressing gown. Coupled with blue shorts and socks with a clashing choice of red for the customary Adidas stripes and trim, this concoction amounts to the most hideous kit in the Red Devils’ history.