Manchester United’s association with Ireland is a rich one as many great players from both Northern and the Republic of Ireland have pulled on our famous red kit.
With the likes of Liam Whelan, Harry Gregg, Tony Dunne and George Best shining in the past now the likes of John O’Shea, Darron Gibson and Jonny Evans all play a part in the first team.
So with today being Saint Patrick’s Day we thought I would pay homage to some of the great Irish men that have called Old Trafford home.
There was only going to be one person to start this list off, Roy Keane. United’s most successful captain ever, who in his 12 year spell at Old Trafford would win 7 league titles as well as numerous FA Cups and the Champions League. A tough tackling midfield general, Keane remains my favourite player ever with his never say die attitude, typified by his performance in the Champions League semi final against Juventus where he took the game by the scrum of it’s neck and said ‘were going to the finals whether you like it or not!’
Ever reliable, Denis Irwin‘s place as United’s greatest ever Left back has only recently come under threat due to the emergence of Patrice Evra. Highly decorated, the right footed Irwin would also play right back if needed as well as take free kicks and penalties meaning in his 529 appearances he notched 33 goals.
Maradona? Good, Pele? Better, George Best! Possibly the most talented player to ever play at Old Trafford, ‘El Beatle’ was able to create as well as score goals whilst making it look remarkably easy due to his perfect balance whilst on the ball and cheeky skill. In the 60s he was part of United’s ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton and his goals saw him win the league title twice as well as the European Cup and the European Player of the Year in 1968. Already undoubtedly one of football’s greats one can only wonder how much more he would have achieved had he not had such a fondness for the drink!
Massively underrated, Paul McGrath was one of the finer centre backs to play for the club. Signed by Ron Atkinson in 1982 McGrath was fast, strong and showed an ability to read the game that made his job that much easier. Although his only trophy at Old Trafford was a the FA Cup in 1985, it was a performance that saw he named man of the match as he marked both Andy Gray and Graeme Sharp out of the game. The world got a chance to appreciated ‘The Black Pearl of Inchicore’ when he played out of his skin against Italy in the 1994 World Cup helping them to a surprise win of the future finalists.
Like McGrath, injury plagued Norman Whiteside’s career but when he was fit he was a joy to behold. Breaking the record for the youngest player to appear for the first team on his debut, Whiteside would win the FA Cup twice with United. Physical but skilful and a player Sir Alex claimed was close to ‘the genius category’ Whiteside could score goals but also didn’t mind helping out in midfield and got the winner in the ’85 cup final. A firm fan favourite, Whiteside had a penchant for getting goals particularly against Scousers both red and blue s how can you not like him?
Of course these are just a few of the Irish players that have aided United’s cause. There are also the likes of Jackie Blanchflower whose career was cut short by the Munich air disaster as well as Frank Stapleton, Sammy McIlroy and numerous others that add to the rich history of Irish Reds and we thank them all no matter how big or small their contribution may have been.