EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Manchester United legend Irwin on Keane, signing for United and the Cup Winners’ Cup

In part I of our exclusive interview with Manchester United legend Denis Irwin, we discuss his time at United, the reasons behind him signing for the club and who he got along best with.

Whenever fans and pundits reflect on their best ever Manchester United XI, your name always gets a mention. How does it feel to be arguably the best ever player in your position to play for the club?

Tony Dunne was a fantastic player back in the 1960s and Arthur Albiston was brilliant too, he was here for a long time. Patrice Evra has been great in the last 7 or 8 years since arriving. I was fortunate in that I spent 12 years here during which the club was so successful. I played in a great team so it’s just good to be remembered.

Which team did you grow up supporting?

I was a Wolves fan when I was younger. I grew up in Cork in the early 1970s so I wanted to be a Cork hurling player like everyone else but I supported Wolves.

How did it come about that United signed you from Oldham? What was it like the first team you met Fergie?

I’d had 4 great years at Oldham but I’d let my contract run down. United had beaten us in an FA Cup semi-final and I was looking to move. As soon as United came calling I jumped at the opportunity. I met the manager at Old Trafford and he brought me onto the field, explained his vision for the club and I knew I wanted to be part of that. There was no guarantee that trophies would come but United had signed Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Danny Wallace and Brian McClair in the previous couple of seasons. Growing up in Ireland I knew just how big Manchester United were and was delighted to get to the very top.

What’s your personal favourite memory of your time at United?

The first year I was here when we won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991. It was the first time English teams were allowed back into Europe after the ban and we were playing a very good Barcelona side in Rotterdam. We were the underdogs on the night and Barcelona went on to win the European Cup the next year. They had Laudrup, Koeman and Ferrer in the team. It was a truly great night.

Who was the best player you played with?

Eric Cantona was special. We’d come so close to the title the year before he signed and he was the difference in 1992/93. I played with Roy Keane for a long time with United and Ireland and he was as good as anybody. Scholes was a fantastic footballer, and Giggs was brilliant in front of me on the left.

What was your relationship like with Roy Keane?

We’re from the same city and we’re fine. He’s younger than me and I didn’t know him when I was growing up but I was delighted when he joined the club.

Which player did you get on best with?

I was good friends with Paul Parker until he left but most of my friends were away from the game.

You went to Wolves with Paul Ince. What was your relationship with him like?

Very good. He was a fantastic player and played for some great teams. We got promoted in my first season at Wolves and I think they just needed a bit of experience, which is why Dave Jones signed us.

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