Peerless Irwin shockingly under-rated outside United
Published 11/12/2013 | 23:31
There was a great scene in last night's Keane and Vieira documentary as the two old foes are selecting the best of their team-mates from the classic Manchester United and Arsenal rivalry. A shocked Keane asks Vieira if he would have Ashley Cole over Denis Irwin (above).
A mildly confused Vieira replies: "Yes, every day, I think." Keane, exasperated, doesn't even argue the point. He puts his head in his hands and mutters: "Jesus, Patrick." To Keane, it's self-evident that Irwin was better than Cole. No point in arguing.
To those who knew him best, Irwin was a gem. An essential cog in everything that was right about United's early glory years. Everyone else has just forgotten.
"Now there was a player," is the first mention of Irwin in Alex Ferguson's autobiography. "Mr eight out of 10." While publicising the book, Ferguson refused to name his best United XI but guaranteed just one place on the team. The left-back slot belonged to the Corkman.
Eric Cantona's favourite moment of his United career was a pass that set up an Irwin goal.
For Ireland, bizarrely, he was often in and out of the team. In 1998, he got dropped for Jeff Kenna. At the time, Mick McCarthy suggested the four-time Premier League champion had to "prove himself". Maybe it was just at United that Irwin got the respect he deserved.