Without any doubt, the last 20 years has seen a huge growth in demand and interest in football memorabilia – not only in the UK but also all around the world. Items of memorabilia that involve Manchester United is at the top of this level of interest, as the club is known and supported throughout the world. Manchester United items have held a huge interest for longer than the past 20 years too, with supporters of the club – both match going and non-match going- collecting a wide range of items connected to the club. Listed below are some of the most collected and sought after items by fans of Manchester United.
1) Match Programmes
Manchester United match programmes have always been hugely popular to collect with supporters and remain so to this day. Match programmes have been found in existence dating back to when the club was known as Newton Heath. However it is following the Second World War, when the matchday programme became known as the United Review that interest in the programmes really developed. For many years, the United Review had the traditional cover of a United player shaking hands with a supporter. This made the United Review instantly recognisable to programme collectors. Sadly, for a number of seasons this traditional cover was done away with. In recent seasons, the handshake picture has returned to the cover of the United Review again. While some fans just collect programmes from matches they attend, there are a significant number who collect every programme from Manchester United games each season – homes, aways, friendlies, testimonials and any semi-finals and finals the club is involved with. Interest in this even goes as far as collecting any reserve and youth team programmes too. Added to this, a significant number also collect older programmes from previous seasons, with the aim of getting complete sets for season after season.
Events surrounding the Munich air crash in 1958 has always produced a huge demand and resulting prices for programmes from around this time. Pre-Munich programmes, in particular are very much sought after and as a result are extremely valuable. The most iconic Manchester United programme has to be the United Review from 19th February 1958 – United’s 1st match after Munich. The cover carried the message ‘United will go on…’ and inside the programme, along with tributes to the players, club officials and other people killed at Munich, the team sheet was left blank, as the club struggled to find players to appear in the match at such short notice.
The 1998-99 Treble season also stands out as another special one with high demand for collectors of Manchester United programmes, with certain ones even being sold for over £50 each.
As the stadium has grown in capacity since 1995-96 more match programmes are sold at matches again and this is further boosted by programmes being sent out by subscription to United supporters all over the world.
2) Match ticket stubs
This has been a big area in which there has been a huge growth in interest amongst United collectors, with prices going up as a result of this demand. A ticket stub for one of United’s European Finals would set you back about £50, a recent domestic Cup Final or European away at least £10, a recent normal home game at Old Trafford at least £3 and an away £4. Again, treble season ticket stubs would be worth a lot more, as would older ones, as fewer tickets were issued in advance, with pay on the gate with cash and no ticket being given to fans commonplace up until the 1990s.
Keeping ticket stubs from matches you have attended is a great way to remember it all, especially if it was a great United match.
In recent years, united have done away with the season ticket book and replaced it with a season ticket card the size of a normal credit card.
There have been a huge number of books written about Manchester United over the years on a wide range of areas of the club. The club regularly publishes an official encyclopaedia and history of the club. This type of book is especially good for younger fans wanting to learn about our club and for use as a reference book. The Manchester United annual is also popular with younger supporters each year, usually as a Christmas present, and helps these fans develop an interest in the club. Added to this, the club normally produces a review of the season, with an analysis of each match and the players contribution that season. This type of publication is normally most popular when it covers a succesful season, such as 1998-99 or 2007-08. The official Members Yearbook is included with the cost of membership or your season ticket and is given to all of these. Many fans keep all of these in their collection.
There have been a large number of books published on specific areas of the club’s history – such as The Busby Babes and the time around the Munich Air Crash, Manchester United in Europe and the greatest United players. Some of these official club publications are of a decent standard too and provide a decent insight into these areas of the club’s history. However, in many cases it is the unofficial publications by writers and United supporters which often provides the best reading material. This is especially the case with fans who have been there to witness the great moments in the club’s history, as they provide a great reminder to other fans who were there and a great insight for those who were not there to witness what went on.
There have been a large numbers of books written by United players and managers over the years. These have always varied in quality, depending on the player or manager who wrote it. Some of the most memorable ones in recent years have been Managing my Life by Sir Alex Ferguson, along with the controversial autobiographies of Roy Keane and Jaap Stam which both made big headlines at the time. In recent years, the majority of player autobiographies have been from players for have retired from playing, so are able to provide an interesting look back on their entire playing career.
There have been a number of biographies written about United players over the years, some of which involved interviews with the players and other which did not. Three of the best books recently released have been Andy Mitten’s books on United players from the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s respectively, which all featured long interviews with the players, management and even former Chairman Martin Edwards from these times.
Football magazines like Shoot! and Match had been popular since the 1970s in this country and always contained plenty of articles and pictures about Manchester United in them. In the early 1980s, Manchester United launched their own official club magazine. It was clearly the wrong time as it lasted only a few issues. In the late 1980s they launched their own newspaper, which like the magazine, only lasted a few editions. With the start of the Premier League in 1992-93, United started the official club magazine again during that season, calling it ‘Manchester United Magazine’. It proved to be a big success and is still being sold today, under the name ‘Inside United’. Alongside that in the mid 1990s, the club also launched another magazine called ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ which was a more basic and cheaper publication mainly containing posters. It did not have the same success and only lasted for a couple of seasons. In addition there have been some unofficial Manchester United magazines, like United by Football, Red Devils Monthly and even briefly in the late 1990s a George Best Monthly United magazine. The demand for football magazines declined in the late 1990s and the official United magazine has done well to keep going. Special subscription offers and on match days selling the match programme and the latest magazine together for a discounted £5.00 also helps. in addition, the huge success the club has had since it’s launch in 1992-93 has been a big help. Lots of fans who buy these magazines tend to keep them in their United collections, especially any special editions celebrating trophy success by the club. Overseas supporters branches, such as the Scandinavian one, have long published their own Supporters’ Club magazines, which have always been of a high quality. Some of the keenest United collectors from other countries have even subscribed to this publication, just to receive copies of these.
Football fanzines really developed in the 1980s, providing an outlet for football supporters to convey their feelings about football and the way it was run. Manchester United have been well represented since this time with 3 excellent publications which continue to be sold to this day. Red News fanzine began in 1987, with Red Issue and then United We Stand starting in 1989. All 3 fanzines have produced countless great articles and have campaigned for better treatment of match going fans throughout this time. As all 3 are not connected officially with the club, honest viewpoints have always been put forward by them and fans have always been welcome to contribute to them. All 3 fanzines now have their own websites that run alongside the printed fanzines. Along the way there have been many more fanzines that have come and gone – Red Army (a new version of this fanzine began last year, not connected with the original one), Red Attitude, Joe Royle’s Head, The Shankhill Skinhead and Walking Down the Warwick Road are some of these.
It was in the mid 1980s that football videos started to become available. The Manchester United Club Shop sold video recordings of each match, which were taped in-house by them. At the end of each season they also sold a compilation of all the goals on a Goals of the Season video. Around this time, player documentary videos started to be sold for the likes of Best, Law and Charlton. There was a great ‘Official history of Manchester United’ video released in 1988 and in 1989 an excellent ‘Manchester United – The Inside Story’
It was in the 1990s, particularly once Sky Sports started, that there would be an explosion of football videos available. Some classic matches, such as FA Cup finals were also released on video. In 1992 United did away with their in-house video recording, as it was taken over by Granada. The result was more professional Season Reviews and player documentary videos for the likes of Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs and even the Captain’s Log, a video diary of the 1993 title run in by Steve Bruce. For the 1993-94 Season, Manchester United launched their own club video magazine, with a new one being sold every 2 months, called ‘Manchester United on Video’. This continued until 2000 and along with match highlights, would show footage of the players on their days off, so fans got to know more about them. DVDs appeared on the market in the late 1990s and from 2001 onwards replaced videos. Although player DVDs, classic matches and some player documentaries continued to be sold, they were not in the same huge quantity seen as in the 1990s. This continues to be the case today with it mainly being the Season Review, along with one or two player documentaries being released each year. The launch of MUTV in 1998, access to the internet and sites like youtube all mean there has been less demand for the quantities of United footage sold in the 1990s.
These older videos are still collectable by United fans but the biggest drawback will be the availability of VHS video players to play them on in future years. If DVDs go the same way as VHS videos, the same problems could occur.
It was during the mid 1980s that the sale of replica Manchester United football shirts really took off and demand for these has continued to grow since then. The red home shirt has always been the popular first choice, but the away shirts are also popular too, especially the special edition ones. Some of the most popular special shirts include the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final white shirt, the 1997-2000 Champions League red shirt and the 1993 green and gold shirt. The green and gold one, in particular has become increasingly popular since the green and gold anti-Glazer protests in 2010. Demand for old shirts has grown too, with a number of companies selling classic football shirts from previous seasons, as fans like to collect older shirts, along with wearing them to matches. United have received a lot of criticism in the last 20 years for the numbers of new kits they’ve released, however they are amongst a number of Premier League clubs to have done this. In recent seasons, the home kit has been changed every season, which has added to this criticism. The most infamous United kit though has to be the grey kit from the 1995-96 which United changed at half time at Southampton in 1996 as the players claimed that they could not pick each other out from the crowd in those shirts. This gave all the United haters lots of excuses to abuse the club. It is up to fans personal choice as to how many shirts they do or don’t buy though, despite what these United haters and media say.
Along with this, there has been a lot of retro shirts been reproduced in the last 20 years, which have been popular with fans. The most popular of these are the 1958 red FA Cup Final one with the phoenix rising from the ashes, the 1968 blue European Cup Final shirt, the 1977 red Silver Jubilee FA Cup Final shirt and the red 1985 FA Cup Final shirt. These have been reproduced to a decent quality and are wore at games by a lot of our supporters.
8) Trading cards/Football Stickers
Football cigarette cards were one of the first really collectable items amongst football fans and any surviving ones these days are highly collectable. Added to this are trading cards and football stickers which replaced cigarette cards and these remain very popular to this day for collectors. Most children will remember collecting these at school and swapping them with their friends.
When Manchester United built ‘L’ Stand in 1986 at Old Trafford and it was opened as the Family Stand, it was sponsored by Panini Stickers and offered a swap shop in the concourse of this stand, which was hugely popular at the time.
Football fans have long been collecting players’ autographs for generations. However in the last 15 years demand and interest in players’ autographs has grown significantly. Autographs of Manchester United players, in particular, are some of the most sought after ones. The downside to this increased demand has been that it is harder to get players’ autographs. When Manchester United still trained at The Cliff, supporters were allowed to watch the team train on most days, usually except for the important sessions the day before matches. It provided a great opportunity for fans to get closer to the players, getting autographs and a photo with the players. This changed when the team moved to Carrington for training in 2000. Initially players still signed autographs outside the entrance to Carrington. This was stopped after a number of professional autograph sellers were taking advantage of this situation by getting the players to sign lots of items and also paying local youngsters to get plenty of items signed, then putting them up for sale. At Old Trafford on match days too, the situation has changed a lot. Until the early 1990s, United players used to park on Car Park 1 (now called East Stand Car Park behind the Trinity statue) and walk across the forecourt to the ground, signing autographs as they went along. In the 1990s the players then used to drive up to the South Stand reception, get out of their cars and sign autographs there. Nowadays the players are all brought in on a coach and go straight into the ground. After the match, some players will still sign autographs to the large crowds gathered outside the Players’ entrance, but not all of them.
Looking through football magazines and on the internet, it is easy to find a number of companies that sell signed Manchester United autographed items. The major companies often pay the players, both past and present, to sign a quantity of items. These items are then sold with a Certificate of Authenticity and a photo of the player signing one of the items. The cost of these items is usually quite high though and often out of the price range for many fans.
Manchester United have a good relationship with The Association of Former Manchester United Players and many of these players can be seen at matches regularly. It is easier to get autographs from these players than current players, particularly if you are around the stadium an hour or two before or after a match. The club has appointed a number of Official Club Ambassadors recently, like Andy Cole and Bryan Robson, who travel across the country and world to meet Supporters Clubs, which has been a positive move.
When players release their own books they also normally do a number of book signings. Gary Neville and Paul Scholes both did a number of signings last year and it provided a great chance for supporters to get to meet them.
Match reports and features on Manchester United have long-held a big interest for collectors over the years. Newspapers from the days after league title wins, cup final victories and big matches are amongst the most popular to keep. Many newspapers often do special souvenir pull outs to commemorate these successes. Events like the deaths of people like George Best and Sir Matt Busby also carry big features on these people in the newspapers and many fans especially like to keep these papers. For Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as United manager recently, many papers produced special pull outs to remember this by.
The Manchester Evening News has also produced a number of special souvenir newspapers over the years, commemorating successes of the club and remembering certain United personalities. Many of these have become very collectable for the keenest of fans. Until 2000, the Evening News also sold a special paper called ‘The Pink Final’ on a Saturday evening, containing match reports and results for that afternoon’s games. The growth of the internet and so many changes to kick off times and days, meant that sales declined and so this was discontinued.
11) Players’ Medals, shirts, caps and other personal honours
The most controversial item for supporters. There are a small number of collectors with a decent personal fortune who have been able to buy items like Cup Final medals, shirts and international caps and so on from former players, either by private sale or by auction. The main reason that players have to sell up is due to a lack of money to live on – usually in old age or ill health, especially for the older players who earned a lot less than modern day footballers. These players are reluctantly forced to sell their items on, rather than being able to keep them in their family, which I find a shame for the players. For me, if the players are forced to sell like this, then the medals and shirts should be put on display in a museum for supporters to see and learn about. that way the players’ achievements are still remembered well.
12) Other collectable items
The list of Manchester United collectables is extremely extensive, covering things like cups, posters, player figures, key rings and so on. For each person their interest can vary greatly in what they like to keep. The large range of different products on sale in the Club’s Megastore is proof of that.
Where to buy Manchester United collectable items
Away from the Official Club Megastore and online Megastore there are a number of places to buy collectables. At Old Trafford there are a number of Manchester United vendors that sell things like programmes, books, tickets and other collectables. The first of these is ‘Keith’s Programmes’ who sells his United items from a cabin built onto the side of RedStar Sports shop (another great place for United souvenirs which has been run by Angelo since 1991) on Chester Road at Old Trafford, opposite The Bishop Blaize Pub. He also sells his United memorabilia by mail order. Another seller is legendary Manchester grafter Tony Veys, who has a stall at the bottom of Sir Matt Busby Way on the corner of Wharfside Way. Both Tony and Keith began as United supporters and memorabilia collectors and they continue to follow the club all over the world. Most football magazines have a classified section in the back of them with adverts for companies and individuals who sell football memorabilia, especially on Manchester United. An internet search for United memorabilia will also bring up a large list of vendors. eBay too is a good source for Manchester United with many items available for excellent prices.
There is also a club for the keenest United collectors – called ‘The United Review Collectors’ Club’. It began as a club for programme collectors in the early 1980s but soon expanded to cover all the items listed above. It is run by lifelong United fan and book writer Iain McCartney, who produces regular newsletters. If interested in joining, you can e-mail him at – email@example.com
No two United collections will be the same amongst fans and each person has their own individual special interests. For many supporters this proves to be a very enjoyable interest, in addition to watching the team play, either at matches or on television.