Denis the Menace – United Legend
With Gary Neville announcing his retirement this week Sir Alex heralded him as “the best English right back of his generation.” This seems like a fairly safe statement to make considering all that Neville has achieved and even Gunners manager Arsene Wenger agreed with Fergie on this point. Having read various articles on Neville’s achievements and watched countless clips on youtube in recent days I took a trip down memory lane and looked at the many players who have played full back for United since the Premiership’s inception in 1992. United are fortunate in that they have been blessed with great full backs down the years the likes of Phil Neville, Paul Parker, Lee Sharpe, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Gabriel Heinze and Patrice Evra have put in some great performances in the Premiership era. However, along with Gary Neville, the one name that stands out for me is that of Denis Irwin.
Denis Irwin signed for United in 1990 from Oldham Athlethic for a fee of £625,000. When Sir Alex Ferguson talks of his best signings in his time at the club Irwin’s name always pops up along with that of Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona. In Denis’ 12 years at Old Trafford he made 368 appearances scoring 22 goals and won a staggering 7 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Champions League and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Irwin played predominantly as a left back in his time at Old Trafford however he was equally comfortable on the right flank. This was evidenced by his performances for the Republic of Ireland where he played as a right full back for the majority of his 56 caps. The Cork-man was a true gentleman and was very well liked by everyone involved in the game. I remember on one of my first visits to Old Trafford watching the players arrive for the game, as Beckham, Yorke and co. arrived in Bentleys and Ferrari’s Irwin arrived with the minimum of fuss in his Volkswagen Golf. That captured everything that Denis was all about, go to work, get the job done and then home to the family.
Denis Irwin was Mr. Consistent in his time at United. He was also a free-kick and penalty expert and chipped in with vital goals throughout his career. Irwin remained first choice left back for the Red Devils into his mid-thirties which is testament to his drive and commitment that he managed to keep Phil Neville out of the team for so long. Irwin left United in 2002 dropping down a division to play with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves were promoted that very season and the United fans finally got a chance to say goodbye to Denis and to show him their appreciation when he returned to his old stomping ground in the 2003-04 season.
United fans have been lucky to have seen some of the world’s greatest players in their teams in the last two decades. While the likes of Cantona, Keane, Van Nistelrooy, Giggs, Ronaldo and Rooney will always be celebrated it does not go unnoticed that the success of the team in recent times has as much to do with the commitment, dedication drive and hardwork of the likes of Gary Neville and Denis Irwin.
Submitted by Glory Glory Man Utd
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