Weekend mornings haven’t been the same since the English Premier League paused its season. The EPL will be back on NBC this month. Until then, NBC Sports Washington is devoting a week of stories to each of the Big 6 clubs in England: Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. Because we miss the Premier League, too.
Our fourth week concludes with another look at the Premier League supporters’ clubs that thrive all around the metro area, including Red Devils DC, which gathers together most Saturday or Sunday mornings from August through May to cheer for Manchester United.
It’s hard to believe that with all the success Manchester United has achieved and with Washington D.C.’s noted love of soccer, that there wasn’t a United supporters club in the nation’s capital until 2015.
That all changed one day when Sam Jones was sitting in Lucky Bar in Dupont Circle surrounded by Manchester City supporters watching the Manchester Derby. Jones looked around and thought to himself, “I wonder where all the United fans typically go?”
A quick internet search when he got home that afternoon led him to realize there wasn’t a United supporters’ club in D.C. He was bored, so he started a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account and the rest was history.
Born and raised in Manchester to an all-Red family, Jones grew up with United a big part of his life. His favorite memories date back to the first game he saw at their legendary home ground, Old Trafford, back in 1995. It was Andy Cole’s debut that day and one of Jones’ favorite players, Eric Cantona, scored the winner for his hometown club.
That game and the famous treble-winning season of 1999, when United won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, are the memories that stand out most among many for Jones in his lifetime as a United supporter.
Thanks to Jones’ efforts, Red Devils DC became an officially recognized supporters club last summer and has grown to be one of, if not the biggest, club in the country. On a typical game day, Red Devils DC draw between 60 and 75 fans to the Dupont Circle watering hole, the original soccer bar in D.C.
RDDC also share the bar with supporters clubs for both Manchester City and Arsenal, so on those few derby days a year when they play each other, Lucky Bar can pack in around 250 people.
“The banter back and forth, the chants and all that sort of stuff, it’s a crazy scene,” Jones said. “The overall atmosphere, everybody pulling the same way, just being around fellow United fans, it’s fantastic.”
Jones takes great pride in the group he helped build with fans from all over the world of different ages and backgrounds and cultures.
“Everybody from all around the globe know who we are. It’s crazy to think,” Jones said.
When Manchester United rolled through town at FedEx Field in 2017 on their summer preseason tour, fan clubs from all over the country flocked to suburban Washington to put on a massive tailgate with around 1,000 Manchester United fans all clad in red.
“Just bringing a bunch of people together that have the same interests, that have the same pull towards United that I do, it’s just been a fantastic experience and one that I love,” Jones said. “It’s the thing I’m most proud of, actually, that I’ve done in a very, very long time.”
Like many people stuck at home during the pandemic, Jones and his band of Manchester United fans have been trying to stay connected through online chats and calls.
As the date nears for the Premier League’s return next week – June 19 for United - Jones intimates that “the buzz has been growing” for when his Red Devils step back onto the pitch against Tottenham Hotspur.
RDDC will be supporting their club together, although not in person at Lucky Bar, with a Zoom call Friday afternoon where they can reconnect over their love of the club.
Unfortunately for United, the pause came at a rather inopportune time with the club running off an 11-game unbeaten run across all competitions. However, sitting just 3 points off the top-four and a spot in the Champions League for next season, United is in good shape. And it is already potentially in a Champions League spot pending the ruling in rival Manchester City’s appeal of a two-year Champions League ban for breaking FIFA’s financial fair play rules.
Jones is confident that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his charges primed and ready for a big finish.
“I like the way that [Solskjaer] has the team finally playing, I think the acquisition of Bruno [Fernandes] in the January transfer window is a huge help,” Jones said. “But he’s got players in that want to play for the badge. If we can get top four, maybe [win the] FA Cup and possibly [win the] Europa [League], I think I would classify that as a successful building block.”
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