I’m taking back everything I said about the 2020 Manchester United third shirt

FSC Approved – 2020 Manchester United third shirt

In life, it’s important to reassess and evaluate your own opinions from time to time.

If you’re like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time assessing and evaluating football shirts at every stage of their lifecycle; from early leaks to their long-awaited debut on players in a competitive match.

Sometimes a harsh initial judgement can magically transform into something that amounts to what is at least a curious fondness, and Man United’s controversial 2020 third shirt is one such design for me. As I reassess my first thoughts on the design, I’m very happy to hold my hands up now and declare that I actually quite like the shirt.

My appreciation for the 2020 Manchester United third shirt began to build with the memorable win away at PSG (the one where national hero Marcus Rashford sunk a dagger into Parisian hearts), and though United ultimately slumped to a third place finish in their Champions League group, images of the win were undoubtedly made all the more vivid because of the zebra-like kits on display.

More recently at the start of this month, appreciation turned into admiration when United beat West Ham 3-1 in a commanding away performance. Many kit commentators had speculated that the United 3rd kit truly came into its own when paired with black shorts, and though we’d been teased with the combination once or twice before, the images of the game cast all doubts aside.

With black shorts and socks in tow, we were looking at a sleeper hit for one of the kits of the year. In the space of a few months, my feelings towards ‘dazzle camo’ had flipped from agony to ecstacy.

Before I finish though, I’ll offer a couple of calming tonics to temper my excitement.

This is not a perfect football shirt. Though certainly not exclusive to this particular United kit, the Chevrolet sponsor continues to tarnish what’s going on here, even if adidas have done a good job of incorporating the clunky, full colour version of the Chevvy logo. 

This is also yet another modern football shirt with a plain white back, and though it would be virtually impossible to jump through all the various hoops that any team or brand now face with regards to patterns on backs, I’m still love to see something for a kit like this where the pattern is so integral to the overall aesthetic. A recent Boca Juniors concept kit offers an alternative blueprint, where you could potentially restrict the bulk of the pattern to the sleeves leaving the kit to look more balanced, rather than having such a busy front with the contrast of a plain back.

These misgivings aside, I’ve come full circle on the 2020 United third shirt. The competition might not be nearly as fierce as many other clubs, but I’m happy to declare it as my favourite Manchester United shirt of the second adidas era (at least until my opinion changes again…).

I love how the shirt seemingly takes a new form depending on which angle you look at it. The jagged edges of the line pattern add a real sense of movement, and unlike Dortmund’s home kit of this year (another notable shirt that falls into the ‘disruptive design’ category), the pattern distances itself from a more throwaway, ‘training shirt’ aesthetic in my opinion.

With information on next year’s releases already leaking out, be sure to pause before you completely write off a shirt. You might just come around before the end of 2021.


I said the 2020 United third shirt was probably my favourite of the second adidas era, but there are many other shirts from before then which I rank even higher.

You’ll find a bunch of them in our marketplace alongside other classics, so have a browse if you’re in the market for a vintage shirt.


What is FSC Approved?

What makes a football shirt good? It’s a purely subjective question, right?

Whilst there are indeed a lot of subjective elements when it comes to shirts, there are still factors to consider. Sometimes, a design is notable for its unique aesthetic. The colourway, pattern or construction may have gone where no shirt dared to go before it, or it might simply be a particularly good utilisation of a classic approach. Other times, a legendary player elevates a design to immortality, even if the design in question would’ve been hard to pick out of a crowd before.

Our series FSC Approved will be a lovingly curated list of shirts that deserve to be in the conversation as good, possibly even great football shirts, no matter who you support or what your taste in shirts is. Old classics, new contenders, if it’s FSC Approved it’s as close to a certified banger as you can get.

Phil Delves

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