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Denis Irwin believes Manchester United continuously improving under Jose Mourinho

Denis Irwin, who played more than 500 games for Manchester United in the nineties, believes the Premier League giants continue to show improvement under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho in an interview.

football Updated: Jan 14, 2018 17:30 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Denis Irwin,Manchester United,Jose Mourinho
Denis Irwin believes Manchester United were always going to struggle for a bit after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, but the side have shown improvement under current manager Jose Mourinho. (Action Images via Reuters)

Denis Irwin’s move from Oldham Athletic to Manchester United cost the latter just £625,000. Having started and impressed in both legs of the FA Cup semi-final against United in 1990, Irwin moved to Manchester and played more than 500 games for the club and win the Premier League title seven times, besides the Champions League in 1999.

The Old Trafford legend will be in town next Sunday as the club’s ambassador along with Louis Saha and will be part of the club’s fan-event that will hold a live screening as United take on Burnley in their Premier League fixture.


It’s been a long time since you retired and there have been tectonic shifts in the way football is played these days. Your thoughts?

The game is a lot more professional than back in my day. It has developed so much and continues to do so. It has grown bigger and bigger to a global sport and you can see that by the amount of money that is involved, not just in transfers but in TV deals. It is better because there is a lot more investment into the sport now that has allowed it to grow and become more professional, but you know, at the end of the day, it is still XI vs XI! It was a great game in my day, it was a great game before this and it is a great game now.

Leeds wanted you back for a second spell. Rumours suggest Sir Alex didn’t want to sell you. How was your relationship with him?

I had a pretty good relationship with the gaffer. I never had any complaints. I kept my head down and I think he appreciated that. We had one or two arguments over the years but nothing bad. It was a good relationship.

How did it feel like to play under Sir Alex? How demanding was he at the training ground?

The environment he created encouraged you to enjoy what you did. I loved going to work every day – if you can call it work! He taught you to work hard, look after yourself, both on and off the pitch which was important to him and keep fit. If you did that then you got on well. There were no grey areas with him and you worked as hard as possible.

529 appearances for a single club. Any regrets while being at it?

I have no regrets. How could I? You know, there were cup finals and leagues that we lost on the final day or the final minute, but that is football. It’s all part of the game. I was with Manchester United for 12 years, playing for a great team, under a great manager. I have no regrets.

If you could describe the night in Barcelona, the Champions League victory. What was the team talk at half time? How did you celebrate?

I remember the manager saying at half time, you will have to walk past that trophy. Don’t leave anything in the dressing room. Give it everything. I was 33 when we won and I think I appreciated it a lot more because I was older and able to take it all in. I barely remember winning my first trophy when I was 22, but being that bit older I knew to take it all in and appreciate what we had achieved. I remember chucking the kit man, Albert Morgan, into the bath, and celebrating afterwards with friend and family.

In some ways it was a night of relief. We had been trying to win the Champions League for 31 years and to finally win, especially that year, being the treble year it was a relief. It was the trophy that took Manchester United from being good to great.

How do you see Manchester United the way it is today?

The last season, since Jose has been in charge we have seen great improvements. I think we can be pleased with where we are in the league; it is just unfortunate that City are doing so well this season. There was no doubt that things would be difficult after Sir Alex retired. To lose someone that experienced and successful after all those years is hard to adjust to. The progress we have made in terms of league position it really positive and we are a much more competitive team. The Premier League being as it is means the bar keeps being lifted higher and higher and we need to stay competitive and keep going.

Did the thought of becoming a coach or a manager ever occur to you?

No, not really. I did do coaching badges up to my B licence, but at the time I was doing a lot of media, which I enjoyed and kept me busy. I was doing media whilst still playing. Then the club asked me to be a legend and then an Ambassador, which is a great honour. It keeps me busy and I get to travel the world, meeting fans at events, like #ILOVEUNITED which we are hosting in Mumbai on the 20th January.

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 17:30 IST