Sunday 18 March 2018

Put 'em under pressure - Five retired Irish internationals perfect for Man United's 'long ball' game

Niall Quinn's style of play would fit in well at Old Trafford at the moment
Niall Quinn's style of play would fit in well at Old Trafford at the moment

Michael Verney

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has received much criticism for Manchester United's style of play since taking the reins at Old Trafford last summer.

With high percentages of possession but very few shots on target, van Gaal's side has often resorted to the long ball tactic, especially when chasing a game like Sunday's last-gasp leveller against West ham united.

This has led's Michael Verney to cast his eyes back to some former Irish internationals who would have prospered under this regime.

Here are our top five blasts from the past and who knows van Gaal might even consider bringing in Jack Charlton as his assistant and Man United can 'put them under pressure.'

Gary Doherty

The recently-retired Doherty, who played 501 games in four divisions, ticks all the boxes and could be a valuable asset for the under-performing Reds. LVG recently said that Wayne Rooney can play anywhere and that is certainly true of 'The Doc', whose versatility ensured he played in defence and attack for both club and country.

With time running out and United chasing a deficit, Doherty, who scored three goals in Ireland's Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, could revert to the orthodox centre-forward role with great effect.

Gary Doherty in training for Ireland in 2005
Gary Doherty in training for Ireland in 2005

Gary Breen

The iconic defender, whose name is still roared around the Aviva during home internationals, would suit the latest United long-ball style down to a tee.

Breen's wholehearted defending would add steel to the Red Devils' defence and complement LVG's current 'system', which has severely malfunctioned despite investing over €200million during the summer.


The crowning glory of his 63 international appearances came when scoring during Ireland's 3-0 win against Saudi Arabia at the 2002 World Cup.

Niall Quinn

LVG is desperately looking for the key to unlocking the undoubted ability of Radamel Falcao, step forward 6ft 4in Niall Quinn. T

he current Sky Sports soccer pundit was one of the best ball-winning centre-forwards of his generation and forged successful partnerships with daintier strikers, Robbie Keane and Sunderland's Kevin Philips to name but a few.

Niall Quinn's style of play would fit in well at Old Trafford at the moment

His ability to hold possession and give crucial 'knock downs' could create endless opportunities for Rooney and company.

Mick McCarthy

'Row Z' McCarthy would be the perfect foil for the pace and panache of expensive recruits Daley Blind and Luke Shaw. His no nonsense approach to the game would plug some gaping holes in the United rear-guard, giving David de Gea some much-needed down time.

His current position as Ipswich Town supremo denies van Gaal the opportunity to swoop for the defender, capped 57 times for his country.

Mick McCarthy celebrates the 1990 World Cup victory over Romania

Frank Stapleton

After being turned down by United as an apprentice Stapleton, renowned for his aerial ability, later signed for the Manchester side and bagged two FA cup medals in an outstanding career.


His old school style would be tailor-made for the latest United renaissance considering his notoriety as an especially good header of the ball. The former Ireland captain and record goal scorer could plant himself in the six-yard box to good effect.

Online Editors

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