Denis Irwin

Goal of the Day: I is for Irwin

Sunday 07 June 2020 02:00

Our Goal of the Day series is now at letter 'I', which stands for Irwin.

Signed from Oldham Athletic in 1990 at the age of 24, Denis went on to become a fulcrum of Sir Alex Ferguson's first two great sides, helping United to the Double in 1994 and 1996 and, most memorably of all, the 1999 Treble.

Overall, the Republic of Ireland international, who could play at left-back or right-back, made 529 appearances for the Reds, placing him ninth in the all-time list.

A mean set-piece taker, Irwin netted 33 goals during his time with United, including today's Goal of the Day, against Wimbledon, which you can see below...

Goal of the Day: Irwin v Wimbledon Video

Goal of the Day: Irwin v Wimbledon

I is for Irwin and Denis finished off this wonderful team effort versus Wimbledon in 1994…


Irwin had been part of the Oldham side which had taken the Reds all the way to a replay in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final, and he joined us that same summer for what would turn out to be a bargain fee of £625,000. At the end of his first season at the club, he was part of the squad that lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup, playing at right-back for much of that campaign.


Denis was such a consistent performer across his 12-year spell that it's hard to choose one stand-out. So let's defer to the man himself.

"Everybody remembers 1999, with the manner we won the treble beating Bayern Munich, but the first year we won the Premier League here in 92/93 it was such a huge weight off the club's shoulders," Irwin told Sporting Life last year. "The best night was when we came here and played Blackburn when we’d already won it because Oldham had done us a favour and beaten Aston Villa. That was a huge night, it was a great night and it was a massive relief after what had happened the year before.

"We needed that first title. The fans were desperate for it, the players were desperate for it and the club was desperate for it and I think that was a huge moment and was a great night to be here it really was. And we won, which was quite a surprise after the night we’d had before that game! But it was a joyous occasion."


Rarely injured, Irwin was a virtual ever-present throughout his first decade at Old Trafford, making an incredible 62 appearances in the 1993/94 Double-winning season alone. Even as he entered his mid-30s, he was still United's first choice left-back ahead of competition from Phil Neville and Mikael Silvestre, and remained the club's main penalty-taker until the tail-end of his spell, memorably scoring spot-kicks in each of our matches against Liverpool during the 1998/99 campaign.

UTD Podcast: Irwin's final years with the Reds Video

UTD Podcast: Irwin's final years with the Reds

In the latest UTD Podcast, our legendary full-back recalls how he felt when he knew his time at Old Trafford was up...


Denis left Old Trafford in 2002, with Sir Alex giving him the captain's armband for his last outing for the club, a 0-0 draw against Charlton Athletic at Old Trafford. He then joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a free transfer, helping the Black Country club to promotion alongside ex-United team-mate Paul Ince in his first season wearing old gold. That granted him one final appearance at Old Trafford, at the beginning of the 2003/04 season. Denis was, of course, given a standing ovation that day.


"Honestly, I would say Denis Irwin would be the one certainty to get in the [all-time United] team. I called him an ‘eight out of 10’. At Highbury in one game, he had a bad pass back in the last minute and [Dennis] Bergkamp came in and scored. After the game the press said: ‘You must be disappointed in that pass back.’ I said: ‘Well, one mistake in 10 years isn’t bad. He was an unbelievable player.” (Sir Alex Ferguson)

“I rate him as one of the best players I ever played with.” (Peter Schmeichel)