Gary Neville and Denis Irwin.

Denis Irwin's top team-mates XI

Monday 13 April 2020 07:00

Denis Irwin is one of Manchester United’s best-ever defenders.

The Irishman made 529 appearances for the Reds between 1990 and 2002, placing him ninth on our all-time list.

During his extended stint at Old Trafford, the full-back shared a dressing with some of the greatest players to ever don the red shirt.

With that in mind, we’ve put together an XI of team-mates who Denis played alongside most often during his distinguished career. While this side is based predominantly on who Denis lined up with the most, some discretion has been used to factor in positions and formation.
Denis's team starts with one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Peter Schmeichel (314 games with Irwin)

The Great Dane and Irwin helped guide United to our first Premier League title in 1993, as well as four further successes before Schmeichel left in 1999. The pair played alongside each other 314 times, placing Peter second on this list. The closest United keeper to Schmeichel was Fabien Barthez, with 45 appearances.

Gary Neville (230), Gary Pallister (266), Steve Bruce (208), Phil Neville (128)

Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce formed one of the most reliable centre-back partnerships in Premier League history during the division’s inaugural years. For that reason they were guaranteed starters in that period and, therefore, were shoo-ins for this side. 

Meanwhile, in Irwin’s favoured positions - left and right full-back - the Neville brothers managed to amass enough performances in the late ‘90s to make the team. With 128 appearances, Phil is actually the lowest tally in the team, but as no other player who can fill in at left-back made more appearances, it’s the current England Women’s head coach who has been selected in that role.

Brucey and Pally had to be in Denis's team.

David Beckham (231), Paul Ince (233), Roy Keane (282), Ryan Giggs (350)

What a quartet that is! Between them, these four midfielders played over 2,000 games for the Reds. On the the right wing, David Beckham lined up alongside Denis 231 times, including the former England skipper’s United debut in 1992.

In the centre of the park, Roy Keane is the only Irishman to make the XI. The two men from Cork played together for the Republic of Ireland on 24 occasions, including at the 1994 World Cup, when Jack Charlton's side reached the second round in the United States.

Alongside Keano is Paul Ince, who was also Denis’s team-mate at Wolverhampton Wanderers after Irwin left United in 2002. In fact, Paul is the only player in this side who played with the defender at a club other than the Reds.

Ryan Giggs finishes off this formidable midfield. The Welshman made more appearances with Irwin than any other player in his career, and the 350 games together spanned the entirety of Denis’s 12 seasons at United.

Three quarters of Denis's four-man midfield.

Brian McClair (203), Andy Cole (198)

Brian McClair had already been at Old Trafford for three years before Irwin moved from Oldham Athletic in 1990. The two shared a pitch over 200 times and lined up alongside each other in the finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup.

Andy Cole is the final player in this team and the former United striker scored 79 goals when playing alongside the left-back.

Schmeichel; G.Neville, Pallister, Bruce, P.Neville; Beckham, Ince, Keane, Giggs; McClair, Cole.

Despite playing with with Irwin over 200 times each, there's no room for these two in the XI.

As previously mentioned, this team is based mainly on which players Denis played with most in his career, but there is some discretion given to incorporate a coherent team structure. For instance Nicky Butt lined up alongside Irwin 215 times during his playing days, just three more than Paul Scholes. However, with Keane and Ince already occupying the central midfield spots there is no room for our Academy graduates.

Other players who just missed out were our former attackers Mark Hughes (169), Eric Cantona (160) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (143), along with wingers Lee Sharpe (138) and Andrei Kanchelskis (120).

Stats courtesy of

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