With an emphatic trophy line of 20 domestic league titles and crowned as the second most valued club in 2013, Manchester United is hailed as one of the biggest brands of football.
United’s recent success in the English Premier League has got them a wider reach, which is evident from the fact that the club has, allegedly, a staggering 659 million supporters round the globe and the highest average home attendance in Europe.
Having begun their fairytale journey in football as ‘Newton Heath LYR Football Club‘ in 1878, the dawn of the new century saw the name change to ‘Manchester United‘. The club has seen itself being decorated with several nicknames: The Heathens, The Busby Babes and The Red Devils being the most popular of them. In this article, we find the answers to why and how the club came to be known by the now famous nickname, the ‘Red Devils’.
Known as ‘The Heathens’ in their early formative years (which also had a religious aspect to it), the change in the club’s name saw them being called simply ‘United’. The coming decades saw the advent of Sir Matt Busby’s era, where he and his young team, nurtured from the club’s academy, took the league by storm by becoming consistent title challengers. With an average team age of 22, the British media bestowed upon them the nickname of ‘The Busby Babes‘, which is remembered more so because of the infamous Munich air crash that took the lives of some of the most talented English youth at that time.
Meanwhile, its important that we divert our attention to the rugby club from Salford, Greater Manchester, which was repeating the same feat as United but in a different sport. Having won the Lancashire Cup and Rugby Football League Championship back then, they were regarded as the premier side of the sport. On their tour to France (which also crowned them as the first club to be invited to France), they won all six matches in spectacular fashion and their dazzling and ruthless performance earned them the name from French journalists: ‘Les Diables Rouges’, which translated as ‘The Red Devils’. As Sir Matt Busby set about in rebuilding the team, he decided that the use of this name would be more intimidating to opponents than its cute sounding predecessor.
The rest, as we know is history. United incorporated the name then in its scarves and programmes, and later a cheeky looking devil with a pitchfork made its way to the crest alongside the ship with its sail open. United also modelled their mascot ‘Fred the Red’ on the same lines. Clubs rivals and fanatics have criticized the use of the devil symbol as ‘Satan’s worship’, but putting aside all such snide remarks, it seems to have worked well for United with their dramatic success (and flurry of late goals) in the modern era.
As a little trivia to all readers and die hard United fans, Manchester United are not the only ones called ‘The Red Devils’. National teams like the Belgian and Belarus football teams, FC Kaiserslautern from Germany, and Crawley Town of England are also known as ‘The Red Devils’.