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Denis Irwin 1990-2002 529 Games 33 Goals

December 14, 2009

Written By: Johnathon Reardon

When there are so many luminescent stars glittering all over the place at Old Trafford the phenomena becomes the norm and it is the ordinary which catches the eye.

That’s where Denis Irwin comes in.

Described by Sir Alex as one of his greatest ever signings, Denis was Manchester United’s “Mr. dependable”, Irwin played in total of 505 games for Manchester United and scored 33 goals between 1990 and 2001. He won many medals with United including; the European Cup Winners Cup, the European Super Cup, Premier League 6 times, FA Cup 3 times, League Cup and the European Champions League.

Irwin began his career at Leeds United in 1983, where he made 72 appearances before being released as a 20-year-old to Oldham Athletic in 1986. It was playing for Oldham in the 1990 League Cup final and the FA Cup semi-final against United, in which his performance won him a move to Old Trafford in a £650,000.

Irwin first played for Manchester United at right back, but was switched to left back in the 1991/1992 season and became an expert at free kicks and penalties.

Success quickly followed with a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal in 1991 before winning the Premiership in 1993, as an ever-present member of the team, playing in 40 League games, scoring five goals.

My best memory of Denis Irwin was back in January 1994 when travelled to Anfield with a 12-point lead over Blackburn Rovers and roared into a 3-0 lead. The third goal being an impeccable Irwin free-kick which flew past Grobbelaar into the top corner net. Andrei Kanchelskis had the hardest shot at United, but Denis was the best striker of a dead-ball because he would spin the ball. He could bend it better than Ryan Giggs.

It was also in 1994 that Irwin featured for his country at the 1994 World Cup where Ireland reached the last 16 after a famous 1-0 victory over Italy in the group stage. Irwin went on to be capped 56 times for the Republic of Ireland between 1990 and 1999, scoring 4 goals.

Irwin was a model professional and was never one to make the back pages. He was so practiced at being retiring he could pass as the invisible man. However, in 1997 Irwin found himself the subject of plenty of headlines when he was the victim of a sickening challenge from Feyenoord’s Paul Bosvelt. Irwin was taken from the field on a stretcher with torn medial ligaments, the “tackle” being widely condemned as an act of premeditated violence that could have finished Irwin’s career.

Irwin was part of the famous treble winning squad of 1999 where he featured in 29 games that season scoring 2 goals. Irwin was suspended for the FA Cup final where he was replaced by Phil Neville, but returned to the line up for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp, and we all know what happened there.  Irwin was also selected in the “Overall team of the decade – 1992/3 – 2001/2” which featured other United players such as Schmeichel, Bruce, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Keane and Cantona.

Irwin made his last appearance for Manchester United at Old Trafford against Charlton Athletic on the final day of the 2001/02 season which ended in a 0-0 draw. For his final game as a Manchester United player, Alex Ferguson awarded him the captain’s armband.

Denis moved on to Wolves on a free transfer in 2002 and helped them achieve promotion back to the Premiership. He was welcomed with a rapturous round of applause on his Old Trafford return, again showing how valued he was as a Manchester United player. Upon relegation from the Premier League at the end of 2004 Denis announced his retirement at the ripe age of 38.

Since 2004, Denis Irwin has been back working as a presenter at Old Trafford for MUTV where Irwin’s Analysis’ is a must for United fan.

“There are certain types of players who give managers headaches and I’ve come across a few in my time in the Ireland job. Denis, though, is a manager’s dream, a class act, a nice guy and a player you could always bank on to come up trumps.” – Jack Charlton on Irwin

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