When Status Quo helped Manchester United score a number one hit with 'Come On You Reds'

23 April 2024, 13:35

Roy Keane and Denis Irwin sing while Status Quo look on
Roy Keane and Denis Irwin sing while Status Quo look on. Picture: Polygram TV/Manchester United

By Tom Eames

In the spring of 1994, the air at Old Trafford was charged with anticipation.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Manchester United were gearing up for the FA Cup Final, and the fans were ready to rally behind their beloved team. They were on course to win the coveted Double.

But this time, something unexpected was brewing. The rock group Status Quo had teamed up with the Manchester United football squad to create a song that would resonate through the terraces and echo in the hearts of its fans forever.

The result? 'Come On You Reds'.

30 years on, how was the song made?

Status Quo, known for their foot-stomping rock hits, decided to infuse their energy into a football anthem. They chose their 1988 single 'Burning Bridges' as the foundation for the new track.

With altered lyrics to suit the Manchester United theme, they transformed it into a rallying cry that would inspire generations of fans.

The original song was based on the traditional English folk song 'Darby Kelly'. It was released in 1988 and reached number 5 in the UK. It sounded like this:

Status Quo - Burning Bridges (Official Video)

The new version made references to Manchester United legends like Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton and George Best, as well as managing to feature the entire first-team squad in one of its verses:

"Schmeichel, Parker, Pallister, Irwin, Bruce, Sharpe and Ince. Hughes, McClair, Keane and Cantona. Robson, Kanchelskis and Giggs!" (Sorry, Mike Phelan).

With the chant of "Glory, Glory, Man United", the catchy song was released in April 1994.

The single’s release coincided with the buildup to the 1994 FA Cup Final, where Manchester United would face Chelsea. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As fans geared up for the big game, the song climbed the charts, capturing the spirit of the Red Devils.

Manchester United FC & Status Quo - Come On You Reds (Top Of The Pops 26/05/94)

Despite a classically dodgy music video featuring the Man Utd squad awkwardly singing the tune while Status Quo did all they could to big them up, the song was a surprise success.

'Come On You Reds' stormed the UK Singles Chart, entering on April 30, 1994. It remained there for an impressive 15 weeks, reaching a peak of number one for two consecutive weeks. In Denmark, it also claimed the top spot, and it became a top-10 hit in Ireland and Norway.

It was the last song that summer to get to number one before Wet Wet Wet's domination at the top with 'Love is All Around', a cover of the Troggs hit.

Lee Sharpe was undoubtedly the star of the video
Lee Sharpe was undoubtedly the star of the video. Picture: Polygram TV/Manchester United

Notably, 'Come On You Reds' still holds the distinction of being the only club-side football single to reach number one on the UK chart. While England’s national side had previously achieved chart-topping success with 'Back Home' (1970) and 'World in Motion' (1990), this was a historic moment for a club anthem.

As Manchester United lifted the FA Cup that year, their fans sang their hearts out to 'Come On You Reds.' The anthem became a fixture at Old Trafford for a number of years.

Man Utd beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup Final
Man Utd beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup Final. Picture: Getty

Technically, it was Status Quo's final number one hit, and their second after 1974's 'Down Down'.

“I’m pleased to be part of football history,” Status Quo's John Edwards told the United We Stand fanzine. “It was the perfect song for the times. As in, you could still do an old-fashioned football song and people liked it.

"It was either Brian McClair or our manager David Walker’s idea, but our David said: ‘Fancy doing a record with Man United? We need it by yesterday’.

Mark Hughes presents Rick Parfitt with a Gold Disc at Old Trafford
Mark Hughes presents Rick Parfitt with a Gold Disc at Old Trafford. Picture: Alamy

“The lyrics were written that night. Myself, a friend Mike Haldenby and Andrew Bown [Status Quo’s keyboard player] wrote them. Andrew wrote the first verse but he knows nothing about football. He’s a great lyricist and it went from there. We went to Manchester and recorded it a couple of days later.”

Status Quo weren't actually United fans, with Rick Parfitt and drummer Jeff Rich supporting Spurs and Francis Rossi going for Crystal Palace.

Gold Meets... Status Quo's Francis Rossi

“We got offered a guaranteed amount to be put into the players’ pool and thought it would be a bit of fun – and there was a tradition of cup final songs, so we did it,” said Brian McClair. “Status Quo are a lot cooler now than they were then, but their millions of fans loved them. They wanted to do it and it suited us to do it.

"There were no royalties either. It wasn’t like we were doing a song with New Order. We’d done songs before that one but they were terrible, really. The ones after ‘Come On You Reds’ were just as bad too but, on the day we recorded it, I said to our captain, Bryan Robson, ‘That’s going to be a massive hit’.

"And he just went, ‘Yeah’ like he didn’t believe me, but then Bryan Robson was not into music at all. He still says to me: ‘Are you still into that weird music?’, and I reply: ‘Beethoven? The Pogues? The Rolling Stones? Aye, weird’.”

Gary Neville said: “I’ve had more number one singles than Noel Gallagher has had as a solo artist and I can’t even sing."

Last Played Songs