Manchester United great Denis Irwin looking forward to taking part in Perth charity match

Dennis Irwin scores from the penalty spot during an English Premier League game against Watford at Old Trafford in October 1999. Picture: Clive Brunskill /Allsport/Getty Images
Dennis Irwin scores from the penalty spot during an English Premier League game against Watford at Old Trafford in October 1999. Picture: Clive Brunskill /Allsport/Getty Images

THE great Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once called Denis Irwin ‘pound-for-pound’ his greatest ever signing.

The modest Irishman might not have star power in the vein of former teammates Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or David Beckham, but his value to the club across 12 years can be measured in the 19 trophies won and the fact only eight men have played more times in the famous red shirt than Irwin’s 529 appearances.

Excelling at either right or left back, Irwin came to be United’s ‘Mr Dependable’ and was the one constant throughout the club’s decade of dominance from 1990-2000.

Irwin will line up alongside a host of other Manchester United Legends when it takes on a Professional Footballers Australia Aussie Legends side at Perth Oval to raise money for the Perth-based DT38 Foundation and Manchester United Foundation on March 25.

Denis Irwin a goal against Liverpool with team mate Roy Keane. Picture: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport/Getty Images

It will be Irwin’s third visit to Australia – he played with Manchester United in Melbourne and Sydney in 1999 and was a club ambassador when it visited Sydney in 2013 – but his first time in Perth.

Speaking from a cold and snowy Manchester, Irwin told communitynews.com.au he hoped Perth football fans would turn out to support the charity match.

“I’m looking forward to it, I really am,” he said.

“It’s a very sporty culture and outdoor orientated society in Australia, so that alone means (the team) really is looking forward to it.

“I know (Dylan Tombides) was at West Ham and lost his battle with testicular cancer. I think it’s fantastic (the DT38 Foundation) is using his memory to raise awareness through this match.

“I hope it’s a decent crowd because it’s a very good cause.”

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Since retiring from playing in 2004 after two seasons at his boyhood club Wolverhampton Wanderers, Irwin has been involved with Manchester United in various capacities, including as a club ambassador, pundit on MUTV and trustee for the Manchester United Foundation.

“I did some coaching badges (when I retired) but I also started doing some media work; little did I imagine that I’d be working as an ambassador and getting to travel the world,” he said.

“I’ve played in other charity football matches against legends teams from Bayern Munich twice, Real Madrid twice, Liverpool, and now we’re bringing a team to Australia.

“It’s like a dream come true. To still be involved with the club is a privilege and an honour.”

Despite the players all being out of professional football for varying periods, Irwin said everyone was still as good and competitive as ever.

“Scholesy (Paul Scholes) is great; he remains a fantastic player and he still pulls the strings for us in these legends games,” he said.

“The lads are still super players and keep themselves in shape and fitter than the players of old. I learned a lot in the last five years of my career about fitness and diet and I’ve kept that up (since retiring).

“This squad can beat anyone and I guarantee we’ll be competitive. I know it’s for charity but we’ll still be looking to win the game. When you get a bunch of old players together it’s hard to lose that old habit of being ultra competitive and wanting to win a game of football.”

Irwin was an integral part of the Manchester United squad that won the treble of European Champions League, English Premier League and FA Cup in the 1998-99 season. Picture: Popperfoto/Getty Images

At one time or another, Irwin called every player in the Manchester United Legends squad set to tour a teammate, whether at Manchester United, Leeds or Oldham, the other two of his four clubs.

But the one former teammate who is not touring whom Irwin would love to have along is the great Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

“A lot (of former players) have responsibilities in media or coaching but I would love to have Peter Schmeichel along; unfortunately his back is gone and he can’t play, like a lot of goalkeepers when they get older” he said.

“But there are so many other great players to make up for that. It can be difficult to get them together because of their responsibilities. Paul Scholes is such a big name and anyone who played in my era says he’s the best player they ever played with. Plus Bryan (Robson) and Yorkie (Dwight Yorke) are great, Karel Poborsky I think was such an underrated player at the time.

“It will be great to catch up and reminisce about the old days but also to find out how everyone is and how they’re doing now.

“It’s a great time for the players and I hope it is for the fans in Perth too.”

Manchester United Legends plays Professional Footballers Australia Aussie Legends at Perth Oval, March 25. Tickets are available here.