Another Manchester United inconsistency

Following on from our look at the numerical inaccuracies of Actua Soccer Club Edition, here’s a real-life deviation from the norm, one we can’t explain.

In the summer of 1996, Manchester United underwent a numbers ‘clean-up’, as vacant 1-11 digits were filled. You can read about that, and a similar operation by Liverpool, in a comprehensive analysis here.

Other players moving were Philip Neville (23 to 12) and Paul Scholes, continuing his series of gradual reductions, moving to 18 from 22, having previously been 24. New signing Ronny Johnsen took Butt’s former 19, but all three players – Neville, Scholes and Johnsen – would have alternative numbers in the Champions League.

As a centre-back, Johnsen’s move to 5 makes sense, the number freed up by Lee Sharpe’s transfer to Leeds United before the deadline for the naming of the CL squad. As a result, Chris Casper – 26 domestically – had 19 in Europe.

The switches of Phil Neville and Scholes leave us bemused, however – Neville had 28 for continental games and Scholes wore 12 (the lowest number he wore for United in games where 1-11 wasn’t used). Just a clerical error, or something else? We don’t know, so if you do, please let us know.

8 thoughts on “Another Manchester United inconsistency

  1. I am from Dortmund germany. It is because in this years in CL the a list players are only allowed the wear the numbers 1 to
    25. Younger local players on list b have To wear numbers 28 and higher. Numbers 26 and 27 are reserved for two wintertransfers. The same thing happened in Dortmund too for example tanko 22 and kirovski 28 in bundesliga and in CL they wear the other number kirovski 22 tanko 28.
    Or feiersinger bundesliga 27 in CL in the first years 20 and then 6 instead of injured Sammer


  2. Something else from that same Champions League season: For the first group game (Juventus away) United wore no names on shirts:

    No idea why, as the names were there from the second group game onwards.

    This also reminds me of something from the season before. In United’s 95/96 FA Cup 3rd round tie v Sunderland, they wore numbers 1-11 without names on the shirts, both in the original game (which ended 2-2 at OT) and the replay (a 2-1 win at Roker Park). I’ve always wondered why this is, considering in the two previous seasons since squad numbers/names were introduced in the Premier League, United had always worn squad numbers with names for FA Cup games, and from the 4th round onwards in 96, they reverted back to that again. Not sure if it was an experiment to use the old system just for the third round or what.

    Here’s a clip of the two games v Sunderland:


  3. Hi sullip, great call on that first Juve game, I’d forgotten that! Liverpool also went nameless in the 1995 Coca-Cola Cup final v Bolton Wanderers.

    On the FA Cup games with Sunderland, it’s an odd one but apparently the referee, Mike Reed, cited the passage in the rules of the cup which stipulated that teams should be numbered 1-11. The game was televised in Ireland and I recall George Hamilton giving that as the explanation.

    Very strangely, Andy Cole wore 8 and Nicky Butt 9 in the replay – it can just about be made out here:

    @bvb09 – Great call, and it makes sense as UEFA were stricter on the numbering in 96-97, which was the first time squad numbers were used in Europe. Philippe Albert and Robbie Elliott wore 12 and 21 respectively for Newcastle in the UEFA Cup, when they were 27 and 26 domestically.


  4. I hope in my remembers its right that buffon plays in seria a With no 1 for Parma als their first choiced keeper and playing With 28 in Europe because of giving a place on list-a for a older player because he could take part in b-list. Also Ramelow wears his whole career 28 for Leverkusen in Bundesliga but for the first times in Europe he had no. 12


  5. Don’t know the gospodarek story behind that fact. Georg Koch get no. 2 Arminia Bielefeld in the 2.Bundesliga that same season. and this was a sign hat he is no. 2 ! But he was motivated by hat fact and fights To be the first keeper. And he was. In the next season than in Bundesliga he wears no. 1. Zdenko Miletic went from 1 To 22 and rightback Jacky Peeters went from 22 to 2 what make sense. Also Gospodarek switched the 2 and 16 with Michael Schönberg.


  6. I hadn’t realised any of this at the time. Fascinating stuff. Does anyone know why Spurs wore really odd squad numbers in the uefa cup a few years ago when Redknapp was manager? I think chimbonda wore something like 85. I can’t even remember what season it was. Maybe Harry had a few quid on the goalscorers’ shirt numbers. 😉


  7. Chimbonda wore 97 in the UEFA Cup in 2008-09 – he took 21 when he re-signed in the January window but that had been registered to goalkeeper César Sanchez in Europe and UEFA don’t allow a number to be worn by more than one player in the same season.

    Robbie Keane also re-signed in January and was given 15 – Hossam Ghaly had had that so I presume Robbie got a different number in Europe but not sure what it was as he didn’t play when they lost to Shakhtar Donetsk.


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