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Manchester United fan group gifts badges to Bayern Munich supporters

Manchester United fan group The Red Army presented travelling Bayern Munich fans with gifts at the clubs' UEFA Champions League meeting at Old Trafford on Wednesday 12 December.

The Red Army donate badges to Bayern Munich fans

Bayern won the game 1-0 with Kingsley Coman's second-half goal, the German champions having already qualified for the knockout stages. United, meanwhile, three-time winners of the competition, finished bottom of Group A.

Relations between the two clubs have always been good as two of Europe's best-supported and most successful teams. This relationship has been regularly strengthened by Bayern supporters' dedication to maintaining the legacy of those who died in the Munich Air Disaster.

What happened at the Munich Air Disaster?

Eight Manchester United players were killed in the 1958 tragedy, which occurred at the old Munich-Riem airport. A total of 23 of the 44 on board were killed, with the 21 survivors including legendary player Sir Bobby Charlton and manager Sir Matt Busby, who took several months to recover from his life-threatening injuries.

The disaster occurred when United were travelling back from their European Cup quarter-final match against Red Star Belgrade.

What have Bayern Munich fans done?

The eagerness of Bayern fans to help pay tribute to those who died in the disaster has always been incredible. Their club was not involved at all, they weren't even United's opponents in that fateful week.

But, speaking to United Review, the club's matchday programme, last year, Bayern fan Hermann Memmel explained the thinking behind their contributions.

“I believe it is an obligation for Bayern to do it,” he said.

“The idea was born that we should do something together with United, and we had a very good relationship with the club; at the time Martin Edwards, David Gill, Sir Alex and all these guys, we had a good friendship with them. We talked and discussed creating a monument here in Munich close to the crash location.

“I believe that what happened in 1958 was not given the proper grief for the first 30 years. After that period of 30 years we became much closer to Man United, to the English fans and our fans as well became closer with Manchester United fans. We always had a friendship and a good relationship. I believe the philosophy of both clubs, especially at that time, was very similar. Curiously, in 1999 we had that… let’s call it a shock for Bayern Munich when we lost the Champions League final in two minutes, but the relationship between the two clubs actually became closer than before.”

In 2004, a new memorial site called Manchesterplatz was unveiled on the location of the crash. Bayern made a significant financial contribution to the creation of a permanent display.

More recently, Bayern have dedicated part of their museum to the crash, which Sir Bobby Charlton unveiled in 2015.

At every anniversary, Bayern send a representative to Manchesterplatz to show their respects.

However, this is all the club itself. The fans take things to another level. The Red Docs of Bayern, as a 2012-founded fan group is known, have dedicated themselves to the upkeep of Manchesterplatz, volunteering to ensure it is kept clean, up-to-date and appropriate.

Each year, United fans travel to Munich to pay tributes on the 6 February anniversary. There, they congregate with Bayern fans and many friendships have been formed between the two clubs.

The Red Army gifts badges to travelling Bayern Munich fans

So, with this joint-history behind them, United fan group The Red Army took it upon themselves to offer a gift of thanks to travelling Bayern fans at the Old Trafford match in December 2023.

On each seat in the Old Trafford away end was left a badge and a leaflet thanking Bayern fans for their care of the memorial in Munich and their continued dedication to paying tribute for those who lost their lives in 1958.

It's a wonderful gesture and a touching moment that demonstrates the incredible connections that can be made through football. There are lifelong friends from Manchester and Munich who have been drawn together due to football.

Who are The Red Army?

The Red Army are a Manchester United fan group dedicated to “returning the atmosphere to Old Trafford” with a philosophy of “supporting the team” and “supporting the manager.”

“We are loyal United supporters who believe in upholding our traditional values and fan culture.

“From the moment our players step onto the pitch, until the moment the last of them leaves it, if they give 100% then they will receiev our unconditional support.”

The Red Army controls a section of up to 3,500 seats in Old Trafford's Stretford End. Members can apply to stand in this section on a game-by-game basis, and the group semi-regularly runs sections elsewhere in the ground, mainly in ‘A Stand', which is situated directly next to the away end.

Harry Robinson

A freelance writer and broadcaster, Harry has worked for or featured in/on Manchester United, FourFourTwo, The Independent, The Manchester Mill, UEFA, United We Stand and many others. He's the author of The Men Who Made Manchester United and hosts the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. A Stretford End season ticket holder, Harry travels around Europe to watch his team.

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