Middlesbrough Lose to City Wearing Utd’s Shirts!

Here’s a story I’ve told often but I still see it incorrectly reported on occasion. It’s the tale of the 1980s game when Middlesbrough played Manchester City at Maine Road wearing Manchester United’s shirts. It’s the anniversary (17 January) of that game today, so here is the story, a match report and some video clips of that game…

It was January 1981 and Middlesbrough travelled to Maine Road for what was nothing more than a mid table top flight clash. John Bond’s City had faced Liverpool in a controversial League Cup semi final first leg 3 days earlier – don’t get me started on that one! You can read about and listen to John Bond comment on it (from my interview with him back in the 1990s) elsewhere on this site.

The City-Middlesbrough game wasn’t scheduled to be on TV or anything. Remember this was a time when games would only be filmed if they were to be shown as highlights on TV that night or the following day and the news of what games would be on the telly would often be kept secret until shortly before kick off, or sometimes announced at the end of one of the lunchtime football shows on BBC or ITV, depending on which channel had the TV rights for Saturday night games that year. In 1980-81 ITV had the rights to Saturday night football and in Granadaland our programme was called Match Night, presented by Elton Welsby.

That night Granada TV planned on showing the Bolton home game as their match but a waterlogged pitch at Burnden Park meant that game was called off, so a quick decision was made to move the Granada cameras to Maine Road and film the City game instead. I remember arriving at Maine Road with my Dad and being surprised at seeing the Granada TV trucks outside the Main Stand. In those days spotting the TV trucks outside the ground brought a bit of excitement because it also meant you’d have the unusual experience of seeing a game, or at least highlights of it, again. I was 13 at the time, and this was always a big bonus.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person surprised by the TV switch to Maine Road as Middlesbrough were also caught out by it. Back in 1980-81 shirt sponsorship was still a bit of a thorny issue in football and clubs were allowed to wear sponsors names on their shirts but not in games televised. Middlesbrough arrived at Maine Road with shirts wearing their sponsor’s name and this meant the filming of the game was now in jeopardy.

City hadn’t yet struck a deal for shirt sponsorship – that was to come later in the year when Saab became the club’s first sponsor – which meant the club did not need as many shirt variations as Middlesbrough. Whether this had any bearing on what happened next isn’t clear but, instead of wearing City’s second strip, Middlesbrough asked Manchester United if they could borrow their shirts instead. Someone sent for a full set of United home shirts from Old Trafford and Middlesbrough played in United’s unsponsored red instead of their own shirts.

The game was filmed and broadcast that night – Granadaland viewers had the choice of the game or the end of the Parkinson show/start of a Burt Reynolds film.

The game ended in a 3-2 City win with goals from Tommy Hutchison, Bobby McDonald and Kevin Reeves. Middlesbrough’s Hodgson became the first man to score wearing a United first team shirt at Maine Road that season. In fact, Hodgsonnand McAndrew were the ONLY men to score at Maine Road that season in a first team game wearing United’s colours!

Were you at this match? If you were why not leave your memory as a comment or email it to me for possible future use on this website?

You can read a report of the game here:

Here’s some film of the match too:

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Bradley’s First

On this day (6 December) in 2004 Bradley Wright-Phillips marked his first League appearance with an 80th minute goal for Manchester City against Middlesbrough. I won’t bother mentioning the final score but you can watch highlights of the game here if you want:

Alternative Sites of Sports History – Free Download October 2022

Recently an academic article of mine offering advice and examples to those researching sports history or working within the industry was published. Normally, it is behind an academic paywall but you can download it for free during October here (it’s free, you may as well have a look):


The article has received publicity in publications/websites of football clubs including Middlesbrough and Manchester City. Here’s what City have said:


David James

On this day (1 August) in 1970 former Manchester City and England goalkeeper David James was born in Welwyn. Here for subscribers is a profile of James:

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On This Day in 1976 – Manchester City v Middlesbrough, a thrilling semi-final

On this day (21st January) in 1976 goals from Peter Barnes, Ged Keegan, Alan Oakes and Joe Royle in the semi-final second leg against Jack Charlton’s Middlesbrough guaranteed Manchester City an appearance in the League Cup final.  The Blues had lost the first leg 1-0 to a Boro side that included Graeme Souness.  The aggregate score was 4-1.

Here’s the story of that game and the situation around MCFC at the time with quotes from interviews I have performed with Alan Oakes and Rodney Marsh.

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Dismal Days AFTER the MCFC Takeover

Here’s a flashback to a difficult period on this day in 2008…

City conceded twice in three consecutive League games during this period, dropping to 13th after a 2-1 defeat to Spurs on 9thNovember. It was a difficult time, especially as manager Mark Hughes felt aggrieved with some refereeing decisions. Most notably, Hughes was unhappy that Middlesbrough on 29th October had been awarded a highly debateable penalty by referee Lee Mason. Replays showed that there had been minimal contact between City’s Sturridge and Boro’s Wheater as the player went down outside the area. That goal switched control in the game. Hughes: “Wheater was not in full control of the ball, he was outside the box and the linesman did not give it. The shape of the game changed… All night the referee took it upon himself to make decisions that were quite frankly disappointing.”

After defeats at Bolton and at home to Spurs the media began to speculate that Mark Hughes’ position was in doubt. City, a point above the relegation zone, had suffered seven defeats in 12 League games causing journalist Daniel Taylor to comment: “Hughes is now at a club where the high expectation levels make him vulnerable…[Hughes] did not sound entirely convincing as he tried to pass some of the blame for this defeat to the referee Mike Dean for ‘not taking into account the [rainy] conditions’.”

It should be noted that City had ended the Spurs game with only nine players following the dismissals of Fernandes (26 min) & Dunne (83) and that Tottenham also had a man sent off. 

Match Stats:


29 Oct  Middlesbrough (A)                    L 0-2                                        25,731

2 Nov   Bolton Wanderers (A)               L 0-2                                        21,095

9 Nov   Tottenham Hotspur (H)              L 1-2 Robinho                          41,893