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When Alex Ferguson payed Oldham Athletic £650,000 for Denis Irwin he surely completed one of the greatest transfer coups in football history. Denis is arguably the most complete full-back in the English game and has been among the most important members of the United team during their 90's dynasty. Reliable and versatile he has been a regular at club and international level for nearly a decade. Irwin is the epitomy of consistancy turning in superb performance after superb performance. So much so that he is only ever really noticed when he has a rare off day. An Irwin mistake is to this day a collector's item!

Upon his arrival at Old Trafford for the 1990/91 season he was deployed at right back but was moved to left back the following season with the purchase of Paul Parker. For many this would have called for too great an adjustment to their game, but equally confident with both feet Irwin slotted into the position without a complaint and until the recent emergance of Phil Neville was one of the first names down in every United line-up.

Apart from being a textbook defender he is also a highly accomplished attacking full-back with his swerving crosses a nightmare to deal with for goalkeepers and defenders alike. Both feet are also loaded with one of the most powerful shots in the game which has taken him well into double figures goalscoring wise.

Some of his goals to remember include his crucial 25 yard strike in the 1:0 win at Coventry in 1993; his Giggs-like dribble and finish against Wimbledon in an FA Cup 5th round tie in 1994; and in early 1995 his impeccably struck free-kick against Liverpool which Bruce Grobelaar could only gape at and admire as it found the top corner.

With the rise of the aforementioned Phil Neville, Irwin's time as a first choice full-back may sadly be gradually drawing to an end but no-one can dispute that Old Trafford never has and likely never will see a better defender.


Patrick Eustace 2000. Last modified on Thurs, 27 Jan, 2000

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