Irwin impressed by United’s full-backs

Tuesday 10 January 2023 10:00

Denis Irwin is the standard bearer for what it takes to be a Manchester United full-back.

The Irishman is a legend at the club, having spent 12 years as a Red between 1990 and 2002, racking up 529 appearances along the way and lifting countless trophies too.

In a recent interview with club media, Denis described himself as “a studier of [United's] full-backs,” and was quick to heap praise on the likes of Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia.

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“[Malacia has] pushed Luke Shaw onto another level,” Irwin explained. “He’s only a young lad who has come in from a league that people would probably say is inferior but when he has played, he’s done very, very well.

“He’s a young lad, so he’ll be learning the game as well. But he looks [like a player] not just for the future but for the present too. I think he’s been a great signing for us.”

However, it’s not just our newest full-back who has impressed the United legend, as the performances of Dalot and Shaw have also caught his eye.

“I think that’s one of the big pluses of the manager coming in: he’s improved a lot of players this season in terms of where they’ve been in the last couple of years,” Irwin explained.

“Dalot has been one of the best players this season. [He] never really got a run in [under] the last few managers; he’s been in and been out. He’s been another big plus for us this season.

“And Luke, who has recently played at centre-half, is another player that’s really pushed on. Now that’s [due to] Malacia pushing him on and having good competition there, but obviously himself playing well after a really good World Cup.

“Your full-backs are big players in today’s game because it’s so congested in midfield and you’ve got holding players now, which encourages full-backs to go forward. In those two [Dalot and Shaw], we’ve certainly got that.”

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In the recent absence of Dalot, due to the World Cup and then injury, Wan-Bissaka has performed well for United too. Irwin believes Aaron has grasped his chance, giving Erik ten Hag vital depth with the congested fixture list that lies ahead for the Reds.

“Aaron was one of them that people questioned whether he would be an Erik ten Hag kind of player,” he said. “He was unfortunate that he picked up an injury that kept him out for a while.

“He’s had the opportunity now with Diogo being away and being injured, and he’s grabbed that opportunity and he’s been very good in the last few games as well. The more competition that’s back there, the better it is for the manager.

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The healthy competition between Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot is exactly what the manager demands from his squad.

“We’ve got a lot of games coming up. You will pick up injuries, there will be tiredness in that team, [and] the manager will want to freshen it up.

“We’ve already seen recently with Harry [Maguire] coming back in and players dropping in and out. Luke [Shaw] playing left-back, playing centre-half. Casemiro dropping into centre-half. [Lisandro] Martinez [is] back now and [Raphael] Varane’s back as well. We’ve got good opportunities there for the manager and good choices.

“The manager’s got good options there going forward, and we’ll need all them with the amount of matches we’ll play.”


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