If you type ‘Manchester United’ on Google, one of the top searches will be the question about the origins of the club’s ‘Red Devils’ nickname.
The story of the moniker is actually quite tragic — but it worked out well in the end and was even approved by Sir Matt Busby himself.
In the early years, the club — then called Newton Heath Football Club — were mostly known as ‘The Heathens’. After renaming themselves as Manchester United in 1902, they were simply referred to as ‘United’.
Starting from 1945, when the one and only Sir Matt Busby took over and began his revolution, the press started calling the club ‘The Busby Babes’ following an introduction of a wealth of youth players into the side.
The Munich Tragic Incident
The tragic Munich Air Disaster of 1958, which claimed 23 lives — including 8 players — changed the history of the club forever. Thus, the nickname ‘The Busby Babes’ turned into a painful memory for everyone and had to be retired.
Just a month after the Munich tragedy, local rugby club Salford played a match at Old Trafford. Referred to by the fans as the ‘Red Devils’ (a name given to them by the French press, originally ‘Les Diables Rouges’), they inspired Busby.
The legendary manager started applying the moniker his side, believing it to be more intimidating than the innocent (and now painful) ‘Busby Babes’. Busby built another winning side at Old Trafford and the nickname the ‘Red Devils’ stuck.