The story behind Manchester United’s iconic Adidas kit worn in the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final against Barcelona

Manchester United 1991 Cup Winners' Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When Manchester United and Barcelona progressed to the final of the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA had a problem.

Colour clashes between all four home and away kits meant one side would have to wear a unique shirt created just for the final. In the drawing of lots, Manchester United lost… or won.

“We wore white – a wonderful strip, which has become iconic,” Brian McClair told FourFourTwo

“We’d lost the toss for the kit but the boss wasn’t bothered. He felt that the team had won the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley without wearing their home kit, and that this would have a similar impact."

Indeed, Manchester United wore their blue away kit against Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final, which they won 4-1. 

Manchester United 1991 Cup Winners' Cup

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McClair started up front alongside Mark Hughes for Manchester United in the 1991 Cup Winners' Cup final, wearing the brilliant white shirt with a red trim. Barcelona, meanwhile, wore their away kit featuring a turquoise base. 

The shirt Manchester United wore has since become heavily sought after among retro shirt enthusiasts, with the old-school Adidas logo, shiny material and unique pattern all elevating it even further. 

With that kit, Manchester United ran out 2-1 winners against Barca, thanks to two quick goals by Hughes. Ronald Koeman managed to draw one back for the Spanish side, but it was too little, too late as United lifted the trophy. 

Thousands of fans made the trip to Rotterdam to cheer on Manchester United in Europe that night, having been devoid of that opportunity following English teams' ban in Europe after the 1985 Heysel disaster. For McClair, it felt like a home game.

“I looked around the stands and thought, ‘Where are the Barcelona fans?’," he questioned. "All I could see was United flags everywhere. It gave me a massive boost. 

"The fans sang Sit Down [by the band James] and I made sure it was played three times at the after-party, which went on until about 6am. It means the same to me now as it did then. It was a brilliant anthem for that run.”

McClair did manage to find time in the after-party to tell Mick Hucknall his album ‘Stars’ was "garbage", though, before it went on to become the best-selling UK album in both 1991 and 1992.

"I was talking to Mick about his music, of which I was not a fan,” McClair told FFT

“I told him that I liked the Pogues, and he told me that he’d just recorded a new album and it was the best he’d ever done. I told him that it would be garbage; that he’d reached his pinnacle. Stars came out months later and was the best-selling album in the UK in both 1991 and 1992. Mick either had the good grace not to mention it or he’d forgotten by the time we next met.”

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.