I'm excited as a pig in filth for the season to start -- officially on August 13 but unofficially the Sunday prior when United takes on City in the FA Community Shield.
The Community Shield fixture traditionally pits the past season's winner of the English Premier League (EPL) against the past season's winner of the FA Cup.
And thus begins the point of this little piece. I've been wandering around the various EPL blogs out of boredom and curiousity to see what kind of community they have and how it stacks up to my extended footy family here at The Busby Babe.
I ended up seeing a lot of "new fan, would like to know more"-type fanposts. And in fact, there have been a few newcomers around these parts as well. And bully for that. The more, the merrier I say.
I remember being a new fan to the EPL. Fortunately for me, when I begin to like something, I devour every bit of information I can get my hands on. I become obsessed. So my passion, loyalty, and knowledge betrays the scant, few years I have been following the Red Devils.
But for those new fans who don't have the awful OCD compulsion I have, here is a quick rundown of some facts about the greatest football club in the world.
Manchester United Football Club (MUFC)
Also known as The Red Devils, the Reds, or simply United. The latter two are appropriate when it's understood that MUFC is being discussed as The Reds also refers to Liverpool FC and United could mean any number of teams (Newcastle, West Ham, etc.)
Founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) as a way for the employees of the railway company to have fun and keep fit.
In 1902, the name was changed to Manchester United Football Club after a change in management.
They are currently managed by Sir Alex Ferguson and captained by Nemanja Vidić.
If I may recommend, The Official Illustrated History of Manchester United 1878-2010: The Full Story and Complete Record (http://www.amazon.com/Official-Illustrated-History-Manchester-1878-2010/dp/1847379109/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311183436&sr=8-1) is an absolute must have for Red Devils supporters new and old alike. And at only 20 USD, it's almost literally a steal.
The nearly-80,000 capacity grounds that United has called home for over 100 years (minus eight years due to World War II). "The Theatre of Dreams," it's known as and I want nothing more than to see my boys play there live and in person.
I'm told there is something in the air when you go inside, a sort of electricity that comes from the spirits of the men that became legends on that pitch.
Divided by North, South, East, and West Stands, it is the latter, also known as Stretford End, that gets the most publicity due to the banners that hang there.
One of the most famous is the banner mocking cross-town rivals (and mercenary wankers) Manchester City. It was a running count of how long the squad had gone without a major trophy. Their triumph in the 2010-11 FA Cup forced the banner into retirement. It was replaced by a "019" banner that will serve as a running count of how many times United has won England.
Other famous banners include tributes to former manager Sir Matt Busby, former player Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and current player Ryan Giggs.
The Munich Air Disaster
On February 6, 1958 after a the first leg of their quarterfinal match-up with Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup (the previous incarnation of the UEFA Champions League), Sir Matt Busby and his team of "Busby Babes," a nickname given to the young homegrown squad, along with several other reporters, supporters, etc. were involved in a plane crash that was caused by a build up of slush on the runway.
Of the 44 people on board, 23 lost their life that afternoon. Eight United players would end up losing their lives as a result. "The Flowers of Manchester" as they became known to be are as follows: Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Coleman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, and Liam Whelan.
United dropped from second place to ninth by the end of the English season and were eliminated in the semi-finals by eventual winner Real Madrid in the European Cup. They captured England's hearts when the decimated team full of reserves made it to the FA Cup Final but could not overcome the odds.
Ten years later, Busby would capture the European Cup.
In just about every country that has association football, there is a league and at least one cup, the winner of which is decided with a tournament.
In England, there is the EPL and the FA Cup (in addition to the League Cup but let's just stick to basics for now). Winning both -- the most recent case is that of Chelsea in the 2009/10 season -- is a major feat as a team has to essentially play on two fronts: maintain or improve their position in the EPL standing will continuing to advance in the cup tournament.
Besides the two prizes, there are continental cup tournaments that the elite teams play for. England, being a member of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), gets four spots in the UEFA Champions League (CL). Those spots go to the top four teams in the EPL the season prior.
So based on the results of the 2010/11 season, United, Chelsea, City, and Arsenal all earn berths in the European tournament. Arsenal, by virtue of being fourth, begins play in the tournament one round before the former three.
United -- since the changeover to the UEFA Champions League format in the 1992/93 season -- has played in every CL minus two. So for nearly two decades, the Red Devils have played on three fronts: EPL, FA Cup, and CL.
In 1999, they achieved what only three squads before and two squads since have accomplished and won all three. The Treble as its known is an achievement reserved only for teams with depth, tenacity, and skill. It's a rare accomplishment that puts United on par with teams such as FC Barcelona and Internazionale Milan.
Since then, United has reached the CL Finals three times, winning in 2008 but losing to Barca in 2009 and 2011.
Kings of England
United has won the championships in England's top flight (the highest level of football) a record 19 times. 19!!! They clinched that record breaking title last season (2010/11) and surpassed Liverpool's 18.
1907/08, 1910/11, 1951/52, 1955/56, 1956/57, 1964/65, 1966/67, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2010/11
"Are ya watchin', are ya watchin', are ya watchin' Merseyside, Merseyside?" - sung anytime we giving a pounding to Liverpool FC and sung especially loudly after we won our 19th championship.
Historically, our greatest rivalries have been against Liverpool and Leeds United. Since City was shite for so long, they weren't really considered a major rival even considering they are also in Manchester. Upon getting an influx of oil money, they have started to rise in the ranks so our rivalry with them has also heated up.
Leeds has wallowed under the top flight for several seasons now so our rivalry with them has cooled off in recent time. The two teams did, however, meet during the 2009/10 FA Cup and United was bounced out by their long-time rivals.
If those wankers can manage to get promoted in the upcoming season, you can be sure the Devils will be looking to exact revenge.
Chelsea and Arsenal serve as secondary rivals simply because United is consistently battling for 1st place in the EPL against either one of them. A win, lose, or draw against either team deep in the season could mean silver or heartbreak come May.
The three-headed dragon of CPC, Gene Um, and nolefansam do a great job of running this site and are more than welcome to add, modify, whatever this piece as they see fit.
The same goes for the rest of you guys. Add bits of information or anything else in the comments section.
I would like for this to be a handy guide that new fans can read to attempting the daunting task of supporting a team so rich in history and tradition.