A United fan outside Old Trafford.

Explained: Why our grey kit was ditched at The Dell

Thursday 29 August 2019 13:23

Most fans have heard the story of Manchester United changing kits at half time against Southampton in 1996, switching from grey to a blue-and-white strip, but do you know the real reason why?

Speaking last year, Gary Neville - who played on that day 23 years ago - revealed that the choice to ditch our grey jersey was actually based on scientific research.
“The boss brought it up,” recalled Neville on the Quickly Kevin podcast. “He hated that kit, but there's a bit of science behind this.

"People to this day always joke that it was because we were losing, because of this and that, but Sir Alex had employed a professor from Liverpool University around sight - a vision specialist called Gail Stephenson. She would come in twice a week.

Ryan Giggs wearing the grey kit during the first half against Southampton.
“And you know how people talk about being 'match fit' or he's 'not got his sharpness back' - he and she never believed that it was anything to do with physical capabilities. Physically, you always worked hard to come back from injury, you tried your best and were physically fit anyway.
“Sharpness was the alertness, and your vision. It was about how quickly you could pick up your team-mates. So when the ball arrives into you and you're playing well, you know where your next pass is before you've started. That's not a physical failing - it's an awareness thing.
“She brought in a lot of eye exercises, and alertness exercises - about eye muscles. She said you stop using your eye muscles when you're injured, in a football sense. You wouldn't be looking around you all the time, you wouldn't always have that 'picture' when you receive the ball. She actually said to Sir Alex - this was the detail that he would go into - 'imagine you've got this crowd behind you, there are colours that you can see quicker than others and that stand out more than others’.
“It's obvious. The reason people wear bright yellow on a motorway is so people can see them. People don't wear grey on a motorway! She'd said to him 'this is not right, the players will not pick it [the grey shirt] up in a crowded atmosphere as quickly as the other ones'.
“This is something that had been going on for months. He'd rejected this kit a couple of months before - he was not having it at all. The vision specialist then started to work with our kit manufacturers on how our kits stand out the most. There was a bit more science behind it than 'the gaffer didn't like the kit and that's the reason why we were losing’.”
We switched to the blue and white kit for the second half.

The game has become the stuff of legend now, after in-form United struggled against relegation-threatened Southampton and were 3-0 down by the half-time break, which prompted the famous kit change.

Our second-half kit helped things slightly because United won that period 1-0, but it was not enough to half to a 3-1 defeat from a strange afternoon on the south coast.

While it was a disappointing outing against Southampton, the Reds rallied and won the last three games to win the Premier League title ahead of Newcastle United.

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