What actually happened when Man Utd changed grey kit at half-time vs Southampton in 1996 | inside World Soccer


What actually happened when Man Utd changed grey kit at half-time vs Southampton in 1996

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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Twenty-four years on from Manchester United's infamous half-time kit change at Southampton, Gary Neville has now revealed there was purpose behind Sir Alex Ferguson's unexpected actions.

United's half-time kit change during a match against Southampton at The Dell in April 1996 season remains one of the more unusual moments in the history of the Premier League.

The Red Devils were on a 12-match unbeaten league run that catapulted them to the top of the standings but found themselves 3-0 down at half-time to the Saints.

Ferguson's men played the first half of the game in their grey Umbro away kit before emerging in totally different teamwear for the second half, leaving the Saints players and the crowd somewhat bewildered.

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However, the blue and white striped outfit did little to help United who lost 3-1 after a consolation goal from Ryan Giggs.

Ferguson's sudden decision to make his players get changed into new gear led to speculation that it was some sort of superstition, but the real reason was much more practical in nature.

Speaking on Sky Sports, former United defender Neville said:

Why would we have had another spare kit ready? It never came across well, because you're losing and you change your shirts at half-time.

It's a bit unique, but there was a bit of science behind it. Sir Alex had employed a couple of years before Professor Gail Stephenson from Liverpool University, and we had her as our "eye coach".

It's going to sound really daft this, but one of the great theories around football that was presented at United at the time was that match sharpness was nothing to do with your physical fitness. It was to do with your eye muscles being able to react to things happening on the pitch.

Sir Alex had this in his head before the game that this kit was a problem because he'd been told by Gail. We had a full set of kit ready to put on at half-time. You don't take another kit to a game unless you're thinking there's a problem with it. He had this in his head, but it didn't come across very well.

There were no conversations... it was "get the kits off" from the kit man Albert [Morgan]. We lost in the kit previously [at Arsenal and Liverpool]. Sir Alex did have his superstitions and his beliefs, but I genuinely think he felt there was a problem with this kit and the Southampton game was the final straw!

United would still go on to win the Premier League on the final day of the season, with four of their six defeats coming in the infamous grey strip.

Sir Alex had been told by Gail that grey was the worst possible colour to spot players in with fans in the background. So he had it in his head that the players couldn't see each other as much because of this kit. He believed in his coaching staff and Gail was our "eye coach".

We used to do eye exercises before every game, even though I sometimes struggled to pick out my team-mates in red shirts! But there was a bit of science behind it even if it didn't look good to the outside that we changed our kit at half-time.

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