The Top Ten Irish Manchester United Players
5. Norman Whiteside. The “Shankhill Skinhead” was a lad who at the age of 17 was not only good enough for Manchester United’s team but also to play in the world cup. Whiteside had skill, strength and fearlessness in abundance. The only thing missing from his arsenal was pace, but don’t let that fool you, if it weren’t for injuries Whiteside would arguably number one on this list as Sir Alex Ferguson explains:
“He had self assurance that was extraordinary in a twenty-one year old, the excellence of his technique gave him mastery of the ball. No matter how fast the game was or how much pressure was on him, he was an island of composure. His eyes were as cold as steel and he had a temperament to match. There was no viciousness in him off the field but when he was out there he could be hard enough to make you shudder. As a player he was close to genius category.”
Most people will consider Whiteside’s winner in the 1985 FA Cup final his finest moment in a United shirt but for many others it will be Anfield in 1988. With Steve McMahon getting a little too big for his boots and United 3-1 down Ferguson brought on Whiteside, who gave McMahon the sort of challenge that would make Wes Brown blush but in those days barely warranted a free kick. Whiteside dominated as United pulled it back to 3-3.
4.Tony Dunne. Dublin-born full back Dunne is a true United legend with only six players having played more times for the club. Although he’s not likely to be at the top of every fan’s ‘best player’ lists you can’t argue with a man who played over 500 games for The Reds in a 14 year period which also saw him win the FA Cup, two league titles, not to mention a European Cup. Dunne was capped 33 times by the Republic of Ireland and is typical of many Irish players in that he got stuck in and went about his business in such a way that you could almost forget how good he was, until he was no longer there.
3. Denis Irwin. Has there ever been a more consistent player than Denis Irwin? The Cork born full back was actually right footed but was good with his left spent many games for United in the left back position. Seven league titles three FA Cups, A European Cup Winner’s Cup, a league cup and a European Cup were all won by the quiet Irishman in a glittering 12 year United career. If Denis Irwin ever had a bad game for United I’ve yet to meet anyone that can remember it.
2. George Best. ‘The Belfast Boy’ Pele good. Maradona better. George best. There’s not many people who saw best play in his prime that would argue with Pele’s description as the greatest player he’d ever seen. Best was a winger who had everything, and then some. Pace, more skill than any player arguably before or since an eye for goal, perfect balance and a fearlessness that modern day wide man would find incomprehensible.
In 1968 Best helped United lift the European Cup- scoring the fourth goal in the final against Benfica. He was also named European footballer of the year the same season. if it wasn’t for Best’s well documented love of the drink there’d arguably have been a few more European Cups coming his way, but let’s not take anything away from a man who star shone so very brightly no one can criticise it for not shining longer.
1. Roy Keane. Even now six years after he left OldTrafford the words ‘Roy Keane’ are still spoke about almost daily by fans and media alike. “if only we had a Roy Keane, Keano wouldv’e bossed that game, he’s not a patch in Roy Keane.” Keano signed for United in 1993 just after the club had finally ended the 26 year wait for the title.
Thanks to Keane there’d never be more than a two year wait for a title on his watch. Keane could tackle, score goals, pick out killer passes and had the sort of energy and high expectations of his team mates which filtered through to those playing alongside him. His finest hour came in Turin when with United seemingly dead and buried in the Champion’s league semi final after going 2-0 down against Juventus,
Keano headed in a lifeline, slammed Zinedine Zidane into his back pocket and grabbed his team by the scruff of the kneck into the final. Even a booking which meant he’d miss the game at Camp Nou wasn’t enough to stop the rampant Keane. In my 20 odd years of following United I’ve yet to see a better performance than Keane’s that night. Come to think of it, I’ve yet to see a better player.
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