WE ALL like to think that as we get older, our excuse-making capacity – one of life’s vital skills – gets better. No more ‘the dog ate my homework’ for us, oh no. If you ever log-on here and don’t see a new tale of football history then we’ll be spinning you an elaborate story involving public transport and the raising of the national terror threat level quicker than you can say Malcolm Tucker.
Today in 1996 none other than Alex Ferguson was coming up with his contender for ‘worst excuse of all-time’, when his side took a first-half rollocking from Southampton.
Manchester United had spent the last first three months of 1996 clawing back Newcastle’s 12-point lead at the top of the Premiership and were huge favourites to dispatch relegation-fighting Southampton at The Dell.
With the formbook well and truly being thrown out of the window Saints produced a blistering first-half display, going 3-0 up before the interval.
The reason for Manchester United’s capitulation? Well, according to Fergie, United’s grey shirts prevented them from seeing each other. Must have been all that grey grass down by the south coast.
The United players emerged for the second half after 15 minutes of hair-dryer treatment and fashion advice from the their manager sporting blue shirts.
Lee Sharpe recalled his gaffer’s reaction, saying: “The manager just stormed in and said: “Get that kit off, you’re getting changed.” Those were the first words he said at half-time.
“I don’t think he liked the shirt anyway – our results had been poor whenever we wore it, and we certainly never played in it again.”
Whether it was the change of kit or their manager’s half-time rant, United’s second half display was much improved, but Saints held on to win 3-1 to secure three vital points as they would go on to stay up that season on goal difference.
United meanwhile would go on to overturn Newcastle’s lead at the top of the table and also win their second domestic double when they beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
The grey kit, however, fared less well. United would never wear it again as excess stock began to build up at the Old Trafford Megastore.
The kit was made by Umbro, who typically spent 18 months to create their new shirts for United, but this incident left their promotions manager Simon marsh wincing: “The phones started ringing as soon as we heard what was going on, and they carried on ringing all day Sunday. On Monday eight of us met here at 7am to decide what to do.”
All that was left to do was to abandon the shirt, much to the outrage of fans and parents across the company who had bought it expecting their heroes to turn out in it for two seasons.
It seems as though the grey kit has been airbrushed from YouTube history Trotsky-style, so instead check out a wonder-strike from the next time these two sides met at The Dell – a crushing 6-3 victory for Saints over the Red Devils. It is Easter Monday after all. Enjoy that, check out what else was panning out today here and then we’ll be back for more of the same tomorrow. Until then everyone…
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