Manchester United have already broken the internet once this summer with their unmissable away shirt, but they might just have done it again with the release of their new third kit.
It’s a big, meaty slap in the face directed towards the future, but with crumbs of the past seeded in throughout as is the case with all great kits these days.
But is it a great kit? It’s certainly controversial, that’s for sure. And it’s one we feel United fans will probably go back and forth on all season long.
Ultimately, campaigns define how kits are remembered. That should be the case here, but it might well not be – adidas have played an exceptionally risky card and stepped into potentially very hot water.
Very hot water that happens to be Liverpool-coloured. Yeah. See where we’re about to go? Polarising is an understatement with the details the shirt is built around.
United and their manufacturer have ditched the original crest and instead opted for an enlarged Red Devil. We’re sure it’ll garner a completely measured and well-considered response from the traditionalist supporters of the club from around the world. Absolutely sure. Positive.
It’s too late to say no.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 8, 2023
On the face of things, it’s actually a tremendous shirt. The slightly off-white, cream base gives it a charm of yesteryear and a prestige that white alone can’t provide. That collar is smack you in the face 1970s and the colour combination was always bound to work.
Combine all of that with adidas swallowing their ego and making the stripes blend in with the shirt, and it’s impossible to think they’ve produced anything less than a 10/10 for United.
But it still just doesn’t feel right.
The shirt is brilliant and remains brilliant until you show your mate and on their first glance, they go ‘oh, that’s a bit Liverpool isn’t it?’. Brilliant. So it is. Nice one. Shirt ruined, then.
Once you’re reminded of how it begins to look like a Liverpool away kit if you stare at it for too long, that ultra-modern devil crest suddenly starts to sour on you, too. It all just feels a bit wrong. So right, but so wrong.
Who on earth are we to judge, though, if Roy Keane has worked with the club to help launch it? Their legendary Irishman who infamously hasn’t worked with them in an official capacity since falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2005 and leaving in a huff.
Seriously, if that strange new crest and the conflicting colour scheme wasn’t enough to digest, seeing Keane suddenly thrust into one of United’s main commercial operations – after years of criticising the club with the most colourful paintbrush of all on television – will almost certainly blow your head off into orbit.
Gets even weirder when you see him actually wearing the shirt. Seriously. This feels like your divorced parents getting back together and you being left to make sense of it all. We’re very lost.
Roy Keane back working with United again after so long? ❤️ pic.twitter.com/g9EbAKvGSb
— United Peoples TV (@UnitedPeoplesTV) August 8, 2023
Got to admit, though – seeing that shirt on a United legend like Keane swings the balance back in the favour of it feeling like an all-timer kit from the Red Devils, and less so a failed Liverpool shirt.
In what is his first official collaboration with the club since 2005, the Irishman has suddenly become the man to bring balance to the force in folklore surrounding one of United’s most morally conflicting kits in recent times.
Binning off what is one of football’s last true magnificent crests for an enlarged devil that looks straight out of the NFL hurts, but you can look past it if Roy can. Who are we to go against the big dog like that?
Perhaps this was the plan all along. Bridge the gap and wash that Liverpool-ish taste out of the mouth by sticking it on a legend. The legend, though? Unexpected.
If he’s happy with it, then so are we. It’s a magnificent and well-considered shirt that blends modernity with heritage and has also earmarked the very sudden reconciliation between an estranged legend and his former employers.
Will take us some time to process that badge and the U-turn on the nasty divorce, but we’ll get there. Especially if Erik ten Hag can get United firing in it.
By Mitchell Wilks