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Gary Neville Explained Exactly Why Manchester United Swapped Kits Vs Southampton In 1996

Gary Neville Explained Exactly Why Manchester United Swapped Kits Vs Southampton In 1996

Manchester United's travels to Southampton have produced some memorable games, perhaps none more so than the time in 1996 they changed kits at half-time.

Whilst the current United team might have become synonymous with embarrassing losses that wasn't the case so often for Sir Alex Ferguson's team in the 90s.

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Same game, same Beckham, different halves, different kits. Image: PA Images
Same game, same Beckham, different halves, different kits. Image: PA Images

In April 96 though the Red Devils found themselves 3-0 down at half time against Southampton but it wasn't the substitution of Paul Scholes for Nicky Butt at the break that took people's attention, but the fact United swapped from their grey away kit to a white and blue striped kit.

Speaking to the Quickly Kevin podcast, via United's website, Gary Neville explained that it was an inability to see each other clearly that led to the change, saying, "The boss brought it up. 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.

"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.

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"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'."

The change of kit didn't help United earn any points but Fergie's team did win the second half 1-0, to finish the game as 3-1 losers.

The following season United didn't have a kit to blame on the south coast as they lost 6-3 to Southampton.

Is a kit the worst excuse for losing a game?

Topics: Football News, Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, Southampton, Premier League, Sky Sports, Gary Neville

Ryan Sidle

Ryan is a writer for SPORTbible. He covers all sport from football, formula one, cricket, rugby, tennis, athletics, mma and wrestling. He obviously hates YOUR football team and has no interest in synchronised swimming.

 

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