original illustrations of the kits worn during the season
Home Kit 2
Change Kit 2
The Season in brief
The Athletic News proclaimed that "practically a new team has been engaged" in their pre season guide to 1903/04, but the early League results were disappointing and despite the investment in new players, the club were struggling. There had been changes in the club management too. JJ Bentley, President of the Football League, was named as United's managing Director in Late August and Fred Bacon had replaced J Wheeler as club trainer, the latter taking up a similiar position at Grimsby Town. Club captain, Harry Stafford, who was made a Director of the club during the summer, was given the responsibility of obtaining the players' kits, on top of his numerous other duties.
In October James West's resignation was accepted by the Board, and Ernest Mangnall appointed as his successor. Mangnall, who had been the Secretary at Burnley, was not only financially astute, he had a keen talent for spotting footballers, a skill West lacked. The club were never a serious candidate for promotion until just one defeat in their final fourteen League games catapulted them into third place.
A new covered stand on the popular side had been erected in the summer, with a 6d. (2.5p) admission charge. In spite of the absence of a derby game, the average attendance soared to over 16,700.
The two practice games in August were billed as Reds v Stripes, suggesting the colours of both home and change kits from the previous season were retained. Further proof of this is found in The Lancashire Combination handbook which lists United's colours as green and white. Around 50,000 attended the two practice games.
It appears from a squad photograph published in the 'Golden Penny Football Annual' that United also had a blue change kit, similiar in colour to the band on the socks. The photograph also shows the players wearing home shirts with two or three buttons. The latter shirt also had a white inner planket. Plain black socks, as well as those with the blue band, were worn with both home and change kits.
United wore a special one-off kit in a friendly against Ashton Town on November 14th 1903. The father of Alec Bell, United's half-back, had died recently and "out of respect the United turned out in new black and white jerseys" according to press reports of the match. United, whose side was mostly reserve team players, won the match 4-0 in front of a crowd of around 5,000 with the goals coming from Dick Duckworth, Ralph Gaudie, Bill McCartney and Harry Wilkinson.
Without any photographic evidence we asked Dave Moor at Historical Football Kits for his opinion on the most likely design of the shirts. He suggested a vertical striped shirt similiar to the change kit.