What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than looking back at some of the best Irish players ever to play for United.
Well actually there’s probably a few better ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s which involve copious amounts of Guinness but you get my meaning.
United have been fortunate that over the years we’ve had some of the greatest players Ireland’s ever produced. We’re not going to split Northern and The Republic of Ireland, we’re just not like that at Redflagflyinghigh so were looking at the top five players from both wonderful countries.
10. Shay Brennan. If a man with a name Seamus Brennan isn’t eligible for the Republic of Ireland then what is the world coming to? Brennan, may have been born in Manchester, but like much of the City at that time his parents came from Ireland. Brennan will always have a place in the hearts of many older United fans not just because of a 13 year Old Trafford career which saw him win every trophy there was. Brennan was one of the men given the emotionally taxing task of playing in United’s first game after the Munich disaster.
Not only did Brennan put the memory of his fallen team mates to one side for 90 minutes, he also bagged a brace on the way to United’s 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
9. Kevin Moran. Has there ever been a tougher defender than Moran? If he were around today he’d probably be lucky to finish any game he started- a bit like Rafael Da Silva I suppose. Moran wasn’t dirty, by any stretch but he was hard as nails and the former Gaelic footballer is arguably as famous nowadays for a red card he received than the hundreds of stellar performances he produced for United. Moran was the first man to be sent off in an FA Cup final for a challenge on Peter Reid- you could hardly blame him.
Moran spent ten years at Old Trafford, winning a brace of FA Cups in the process- he was eventually awarded the winner’s medal denied him by the ’85 red card and when he left for Spain, many a striker in England breathed a massive sigh of relief.
8. Frank Stapleton. Another tough, Irishman from the United team of the ’80s Stapleton was the sort of striker who if you were a defender you’d be dreading an incredibly hard day at the office. Great in the air and hard as nails, Stapleton wasn’t afraid to get stuck in, most notably in the 1985 FA Cup final, when with fellow countryman Kevin Moran sent off, he moved to centre back and produced a man of the match type display.
They don’t make forwards like Stapleton anymore, which many a defender is probably very grateful for.
7. Sammy McIlroy. The last of the Busby Babes as he was the last youth player to be signed by Sir Matt Busby. Belfast born McIlroy would spend 13 years at United, becoming an important part of the team which bounced back from relegation in 1975. McIlroy also helped the club to an FA Cup win in 1977, stopping Liverpool winning the treble in the process.
There’s not many players who score a hat-trick only to be replaced but that’s exactly what happened to McIlroy as the day Bryan Robson signed for United the Northern Ireland midfield man scored a hat-trick against Wolves which would trun out to be his last goals for the club.
6. Paul McGrath. What is it about mega-tough Irishmen playing for United in the ’80s? It seems the entire team was made up of the sort of players who’d give you nightmares. McGrath was one of the greatest defenders United’s ever seen, although it’s easy to forget as his career at Old Trafford was ended somewhat prematurely as Ferguson got rid of those he felt were responsible for the drinking culture at the club. There can be no denying the Republic of Ireland man’s ability though as Fergie notes:
“He [McGrath] was an exceptionally skilful and stylish defender, with marvellous athleticism, a man whose abilities stood comparisons with any central defender in the game. “
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