Denis Irwin: Go away, come back stronger
Manchester United legend Denis Irwin says playing international football over the summer will help our players recover from the pain of losing out on the Europa League trophy.
Fourteen Reds are in with a chance of featuring at the upcoming European Championships, while Edinson Cavani and Fred could also be involved in the Copa America.
Going away and being around friends and opponents from other clubs will involve a bit of banter, according to our former full-back, but dedication to the national cause could be the best tonic in terms of coming back stronger in August.
“Well, it takes you a bit of a while to get over it,” Denis said in our Matchday Review show, following the game.
“The next thing now is that a lot of the lads will go away and join up with the internationals. When you join up with other players, you get a bit of a ribbing for it and that is just part and parcel of being a footballer.
“They will probably forget about it when they are playing for their countries and, then, when they come back to United for pre-season, they have got to get it behind them as soon as possible.”
Irwin is speaking from experience as, although he claimed 18 trophies during his time with United, he was also on the losing side in several finals.
One summer that sticks in his mind is 1995, when the Reds were beaten in the FA Cup final by Everton at Wembley, less than a week after being pipped to the title by Blackburn Rovers.
“We lost the league six days prior to that and it sticks in my mind more than winning trophies,” Denis recalls. “Absolutely, it drives you to go again.
“I went away in the summer of '95, played a few games for Ireland [in the qualifiers for Euro ‘96] and then I came back.
“You have got to go again. It's as simple as that. There is a huge hunger and desire there for the lads to win trophies. They have to come back, ready to go again on the first day of pre-season.”
Irwin acknowledges that while the club's league position has improved year-on-year under his former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a better start will be required if the Reds are really to be involved in the title race next term.
“I am sure Ole will say on the first day of pre-season that we have got to challenge this year, we have got to iron out the inconsistencies and we have got to go again,” continued Irwin.
“This season, there has been progression and we have got to say that. We were third last season and only just about, from the last game of the season, when we needed a result at Leicester to qualify for the Champions League.
“This season, [we achieved] second place and cemented it a lot earlier as well. We had a great opportunity to win a final and, unfortunately, we haven't taken it, but we have got to go again next year.
“We have got to be closer in the Premier League and we have got to challenge. We have got to be ready from the off. We got off to an indifferent start this season and we were very inconsistent early on. We have got to iron all of that out and go from the very start.”