Manchester United Nickname: Why are they called the 'Red Devils'?

Find out why Manchester United, one of the most decorated teams in European history, are called as the 'Red Devils'.

File photo of Manchester United players; Credit: Twitter/ @EuropaLeague
By Hiranya Karnatak | Mar 10, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us


Manchester United are one of the most popular football teams in the world and has a record of 20 League titles, 12 FA Cups, six League Cups, and a record 21 FA Community Shields to its credit. Newton Heath LYR Football Club, which was established in 1878, was renamed Manchester United in 1902. The club initially played at Clayton, Manchester, before relocating to Old Trafford in 1910. The club’s crest was inspired by the coat of arms for Manchester City Council, although the ship with full sails is the only thing visible on the present version. The devil is a reference to the team’s nickname, “The Red Devils,” and it was added to the club crest in 1970.

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When it comes to trophies won, Manchester United are one of the most successful clubs in Europe. The team won its first league title in 1908, and the FA Cup for the first time the following year. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United became the first English team to win the Treble in 1999. In 2017, United defeated Ajax to win the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League. With this victory, United joined Juventus, Ajax, Bayern Munich, and Chelsea as clubs that have won the “European Treble” of UEFA Champions League, Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Europa League.

Why are they called the Red Devils?

In the 1950s, Manchester United was affectionately referred to as the “Busby Babes” in honour of the team’s well-known and beloved manager. Sir Matt Busby, who has been in command since 1945, guided the team through the Second World War and turned them into champions in a short period of time. A significant event in the club’s history was the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, which claimed the lives of 23 persons, including eight players. Busby had to reassemble the group, and while doing so, he looked for a new self. The term “Busby Babes” was now associated with regret, tragedy, and the lives that were lost in the Munich Air Tragedy.

Around the same time, Salford’s rugby team went by the name Reds on paper but went by the nickname “Red Devils”. This nickname originated in 1934 after the team won a competition in France, which led local journalists to call them “Les Diables Rouges.” This reportedly motivated Busby, who ultimately used the name for his own club. Instead of the earlier, more innocent-sounding “Busby Babes,” he preferred the more menacing image of the “Red Devil,” and he started to apply it to Manchester United.

What are their other nicknames?

Manchester United has been referred to as “The Heathens” and “The Busby Babes,” other than the well known “Red Devils”. When Newton Heath Football Club was founded in 1878, the team was referred to as “The Heathens” during its early years. Later on, a surprising infusion of youth arose when the legendary Sir Matt Busby became the club’s manager in 1945. Because of his confidence in the youngsters, United became known as “The Busby Babes” in the media. The Busby Babes got their name from their coach, but only while Sir Matt Busby was in charge. After this, the club was referred to as the Red Devils and that nickname has cemented itself in the club’s legacy.



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