How to spot a fake Manchester United shirt (with pictures)

Whichever way you slice it, Manchester United are one of the biggest teams in the world. Yes I know, the irony of me writing this after another defeat in the league this season is not lost of me, but still the Red Devils have been one of the loudest, proudest teams for at least my lifetime with a global fanbase that is the envy of anyone else in the footballing world.

With CR7 back in town, the excitement around Old Trafford has reached fever pitch, but with this renewed wave of enthusiasm comes a warning. United shirts are hot property once again, and fakes are popping up all over the place.

Many people knowingly buy fakes in an effort to save money, and though I’d always caution doing so I won’t take this opportunity to try and persuade you to do otherwise. What I will do however is provide anyone with the tools they need to identify a fake Manchester United shirt, if that is something you’re concerned about.


Fake shirts by brand

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Manchester United crests

The Manchester United crest is an iconic symbol, and although it has retained many of its key components over the years the exact look of the badge has been tweaked in a number of subtle ways.

Below is a selection of crests from genuine United shirts, showing some of the variations from the looks of the 90s to a more modern, tonal example taken from a recent Man U kit. When trying to identify if a shirt is real or not, check the crest you’re looking out as forensically as possible against pictures of crests from shirts you know to be genuine (retail websites are a good place to start, or shirts from fellow collectors).

Fake United crests can take many forms, but you want to focus on various  elements from the integrity of shapes like the devil, to the overall shape of the badge and, if embroidered, the quality of the stitching.

Again it’s a case of trial and error, comparing as much as you can with genuine crests. If you take the second example in the collage above, the extra thickness of the “Manchester United” wording is the biggest giveaway. The wording of the 3rd crest above is another giveaway, as is the stance of the devil.

Manufacturer logos on Manchester United shirts

From adidas to Umbro to Nike and back to adidas, the big names have taken it in turns to produce United kits. As with the crest conversation, the look of the various manufacturer logos has been diverse, forcing any collector to keep on their toes when trying to avoid fakes.

Here’s a crop of genuine brand marks, which all showcase the logo of the respective companies as you’d expect to see them. Whether sublimated, embroidered or heat pressed, you want to make sure there are no trailing lines or unusually thin or chunky design elements.

Let’s now compare the real stuff to some counterfeit logos. With the adidas trefoil for example, the lines in the lower portion of the logo shouldn’t be messily overlapping as with the example below.

Dodgy Nike swooshes are also quite easy to spot once you’ve familiarised yourself with the look of the logo, leaving fakes like the one below to show on account of how slender it is. And with Umbro in the 90s, the way the top of the double diamonds droops in the picture below is a red flag. 

Manchester United sponsors

Sponsor logos are ‘easier’ to fake, broadly speaking, especially when the original sponsor was applied as a plastic transfer. At the risk of repeating myself too much, the best approach is to familiarise yourselves with the sponsors as they appear on genuine shirts (like the pictures below).

Fake sponsors, as with the brand logo discussion, will stand out if you’ve done your homework, but in general I like to focus on the crest or brand logo first before moving to things like sponsors.

Manchester United shirt product codes and internal labels

Any veteran collector will know that the product code represents the best way to identify a fake Manchester United shirt, at least for modern shirts. The vast majority of shirts from the past 10 years include a small label with a product code, and a quick search of this code provides all the information you need.

Here are some examples of various product codes from Manchester United shirts. The code label is usually either near the bottom of the shirt on the inside, or just inside the collar at the top.

Quite simply, if you search the code and you see pictures of the shirt the label is supposedly attached to, you’re good to go. If generic shirts from the brand come up, you’re probably looking at a fake Manchester United shirt. Note that sometimes brands do multiple batches of shirts, which means a code may not return results straight away. Still, most fake codes have been circulating long enough that you’ll quickly know if a code is wrong.

As a rule I would never buy a shirt without a product code unless there was no product code to begin with such as with some older shirts. Always ask to see one when verifying a shirt, and then if it’s a shirt that’s more than ~10 years old do some research online to see if there should be one.

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Phil Delves

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