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26 May 1996. Liam O'Brien, Republic of Ireland. Soccer. Lansdowne Road. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE.

26 May 1996. Liam O'Brien, Republic of Ireland. Soccer. Lansdowne Road. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE.

26 May 1996. Liam O'Brien, Republic of Ireland. Soccer. Lansdowne Road. Picture Credit: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE.

LIAM O'BRIEN (Former Manchester United and Ireland footballer)

After Alex Ferguson announced his retirement last week, Liam O'Brien's phone was hopping. He played for Manchester United under Ferguson and many people believed he was his first signing. He was in fact the last player Ron Atkinson signed. But even though he wasn't one of Ferguson's own signings, O'Brien still had a good relationship with the Scot.

"His knowledge of the game was second to none and his man management was excellent," says O'Brien. "He got the best out of people. The amount of players who have come through under his guidance is phenomenal. He was a very strong disciplinarian in his early days but he obviously wanted to put his own stamp on the club."

O'Brien grew up in Ringsend in Dublin, where he dreamed of playing for one of the big teams in England.

"The young lads in the area always had a ball to play with. Initially we played on the streets and then I ended up playing for the local team, Cambridge Boys. It was a great time, even back then my parents were a real inspiration, they never pushed me too hard, just encouraged me along the way."

The young footballer showed early promise and when Cambridge Boys split up, Stella Maris in Drumcondra snapped him up. He played for them for a couple of years before joining Bohemians when he was 17. However, his time with the Phibsboro club was short-lived and soon after O'Brien joined Shamrock Rovers. It was a move that paid dividends as he won three consecutive league titles before moving to England.

Manchester United was his first port of call and within two months of joining the club O'Brien was handed a first-team starting spot. After his spell at Manchester United, he moved on to Newcastle United where he stayed for six seasons. Next stop was Tranmere Rovers for five more seasons before a return home beckoned. While playing in England, O'Brien made 16 senior appearances for Ireland.

Upon his return in 1999, he joined Cork City for a season and then returned to Bohemians as player-manager. Then in 2011 Pat Fenlon appointed him as first team coach of Hibernian.

He's now based in Edinburgh while his wife Terry and four kids, who have been a constant a support throughout his career, are living in Co Kildare.

Irish Independent