Denis Irwin

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Denis Irwin
Denis Irwin (2017-07-29 img06) (cropped).jpg
Irwin in 2017
Personal information
Full name Joseph Denis Irwin [1]
Date of birth (1965-10-31) 31 October 1965 (age 55) [2]
Place of birth Cork, Ireland
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) [3]
Position(s) Left back [4]
Youth career
0000–1983 Leeds United
Senior career*
1983–1986 Leeds United 72 (1)
1986–1990 Oldham Athletic 167 (4)
1990–2002 Manchester United 368 (22)
2002–2004 Wolverhampton Wanderers 75 (2)
National team
1986–1987 Republic of Ireland U21 3 (0)
1989 Republic of Ireland U23 1 (1)
1990 Republic of Ireland B 1 (0)
1990–1999 Republic of Ireland 56 (4)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Joseph Denis Irwin (born 31 October 1965) is an Irish former professional footballer who played as a left back from 1983 to 2004.


Irwin is best known for his long and successful stint at Manchester United, where he established himself as one of the most important players in the United team that won a host of domestic and European trophies in his time there between 1990 and 2002. He has been regarded by Alex Ferguson as, pound for pound, his greatest ever signing. [5] Earlier in his career he played for Leeds United and then Oldham Athletic, and finished his career with a two-year spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club he supported as a child. [6]

Irwin was capped by the Republic of Ireland national side 56 times, scoring four goals and featuring in the side that reached the second round (last 16) at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Irwin is the joint most successful Irish footballer in history, a record he shares with fellow Manchester United stalwart Roy Keane, having won 19 trophies in his career. [7]

Early life

Irwin was born and raised in Cork, County Cork and was educated at Togher Boys' National School and Coláiste Chríost Rí. [8] As a schoolboy, he excelled at both Gaelic football and hurling, and played at Croke Park more than once, on one occasion marking future teammate, Niall Quinn. [9]

Club career

Irwin outside The Cliff in 1992 The Cliff (Denis Irwin).JPG
Irwin outside The Cliff in 1992

Irwin began his career with Leeds United in 1983, making 72 appearances in the Second Division, before moving on to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer in 1986. He helped Oldham reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup in 1990 before he was transferred to Manchester United for a fee of £625,000.[ citation needed ]

In 12 years at Old Trafford, he made 296 Premier League appearances and won seven Premier League title medals, as well as two FA Cup winner's medals (1994 and 1996), a League Cup winner's medal and UEFA Champions League and European Cup Winners' Cup honours. He was comfortable in either of the full back positions and an expert at free kicks and penalties, and even in his mid thirties he was still United's first choice left-back in preference to the much younger Phil Neville.[ citation needed ]

He scored a total of 22 league goals for Manchester United, including several penalties. The first of these came on 7 September 1991 in a 3–0 home win over Norwich City in the First Division. [10]

Notable goals came on 26 December 1991, when he scored twice in a 6–3 away league win over his old club Oldham Athletic, and his late winner against Southampton in May 1995 [11] which kept the league title race open until the final match. [12]

Irwin was awarded a testimonial match for Manchester United – played on 16 August 2000 against Manchester City at Old Trafford. Despite testimonials being friendly matches, due to the match being between local rivals it was a physical affair. Irwin went off injured in the 37th minute after a bad challenge by City striker George Weah.[ citation needed ]

Irwin made his last appearance for Manchester United at Old Trafford against Charlton Athletic on the final day of the 2001–02 Premier League season (12 May 2002), which ended in a 0–0 draw. For his final appearance as a Manchester United player, Alex Ferguson awarded him the captain's armband.[ citation needed ]

Irwin joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a free transfer after the 2001–02 season, coincidentally joining the Black Country club at the same time as his former Manchester United teammate Paul Ince made the move to the West Midlands club, having previously been at Middlesbrough. Irwin scored twice in his first season at Wolves, against Burnley [13] and Grimsby. [14]

After Wolves won promotion to the Premier League in 2003, Irwin was applauded by the Manchester United supporters when he walked onto the pitch at Old Trafford for an early season league match which United won 1–0.[ citation needed ]

Wolves were relegated at the end of the 2003–04 season, and the 38-year-old Irwin then announced his retirement. [15]

International career

Irwin played for the Republic of Ireland national under-19 team that qualified for the 1983 UEFA European Under-18 Championship and the 1984 UEFA European Under-18 Championship. He was capped 56 times for the Republic of Ireland between 1990 and 1999, and scored four goals. His first appearance came on 12 September 1990 (just after his move to Manchester United), when he helped them beat Morocco 1–0 in a friendly at Dalymount Park. He made his competitive international debut on 17 October 1990, when the national side began their UEFA Euro 1992 qualifying campaign with a 5–0 win over Turkey at Lansdowne Road. He scored his first international goal on 29 April 1992 in a friendly against the United States at Lansdowne Road. His final international appearance came on 17 November 1999, at the age of 34, when Ireland lost to Turkey in the UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying play-off second leg in Bursa. [16] He played for his country at the 1994 World Cup.[ citation needed ]

Media career

Since 2004, Irwin has worked as a presenter on MUTV. [17] Irwin has been involved in coverage of several football tournaments on RTÉ. He is also a columnist with Ireland's Sunday World newspaper. He contributed to RTÉ Sport's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. [18] [19] In 2020 he named the best team Manchester United XI that he played with in his years at the club for [20]

Career statistics


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition [21]
ClubSeasonLeague FA Cup League Cup EuropeOtherTotal
Leeds United 1983–84 Second Division 1201000130
1984–85 Second Division4111030451
1985–86 Second Division19010202 [lower-alpha 1] 0240
Oldham Athletic 1986–87 Second Division41120303 [lower-alpha 2] 0491
1987–88 Second Division430105300493
1988–89 Second Division41210301 [lower-alpha 1] 0462
1989–90 Second Division42190801 [lower-alpha 1] 0601
Manchester United 1990–91 First Division 34030806 [lower-alpha 3] 01 [lower-alpha 4] 0520
1991–92 First Division38430702 [lower-alpha 3] 01 [lower-alpha 5] 0514
1992–93 Premier League 40530302 [lower-alpha 6] 0485
1993–94 Premier League42272903 [lower-alpha 7] 01 [lower-alpha 4] 0624
1994–95 Premier League40274205 [lower-alpha 7] 000546
1995–96 Premier League31160101 [lower-alpha 6] 0391
1996–97 Premier League31130008 [lower-alpha 7] 01 [lower-alpha 4] 0431
1997–98 Premier League25240106 [lower-alpha 7] 21 [lower-alpha 4] 0374
1998–99 Premier League292610012 [lower-alpha 7] 01 [lower-alpha 4] 0483
1999–2000 Premier League2530013 [lower-alpha 7] 04 [lower-alpha 8] 0423
2000–01 Premier League21010007 [lower-alpha 7] 21 [lower-alpha 4] 0302
2001–02 Premier League120000010 [lower-alpha 7] 01 [lower-alpha 4] 0230
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2002–03 First Division43240203 [lower-alpha 9] 0522
2003–04 Premier League3201000330
Career total6822964757375422090043
  1. 1 2 3 Appearance(s) in Full Members' Cup
  2. One appearance in Full Members' Cup, two in Second Division play-offs
  3. 1 2 Appearances in European Cup Winners' Cup
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Appearance in FA Charity Shield
  5. Appearance in European Super Cup
  6. 1 2 Appearance(s) in UEFA Cup
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  8. One appearance in FA Charity Shield, one in Intercontinental Cup, two in FIFA Club World Championship
  9. Appearances in First Division play-offs


Appearances and goals by national team and year
National teamYearAppsGoals
Republic of Ireland [22] 199020
Republic of Ireland score listed first, score column indicates score after each Irwin goal. [23]
List of international goals scored by Denis Irwin
129 April 1992 Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland10Flag of the United States.svg  United States 2–04–1 Friendly [24]
229 October 1997 Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland47Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 1–01–1 1998 World Cup qualification play-offs [25]
35 September 1998 Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland49Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 1–02–0 UEFA Euro 2000 qualification [26]
410 February 1999 Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland51Flag of Paraguay.svg  Paraguay 1–02–0 Friendly [27]


Oldham Athletic

Manchester United

Wolverhampton Wanderers


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