Alex Ferguson has always maintained that the only player guaranteed a place in his all-time Manchester United XI was Denis Irwin.
Ferguson signed his fair share of flashy players over the years but the legendary former United manager always had a special fondness for consistent workhorses and Denis Irwin most definitely fell into the latter category.
Irwin is rated by many as United’s best-ever left-back and the Corkman won seven Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford.
Ferguson was certainly a great admirer of Irwin’s talents.
“People ask you who is your best Man United team. It is absolutely impossible,” Ferguson said in 2013.
“You look at the strikers I had, going back to (Brian) McClair, (Mark) Hughes, (Andy) Cole, (Eric) Cantona, (Ruud) van Nistelrooy, (Louis) Saha, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, (Dwight) Yorke, Teddy Sheringham.
“Then to the present players, Wayne Rooney, (Robin) van Persie, Chicharito (Xavier Hernandez). How do you pick out of that? Cantona and somebody else?
“The midfield was probably a bit easier because you have (Roy) Keane, (Bryan) Robson and (Paul) Scholes, they were fantastic players and (David) Beckham, (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Ryan) Giggs.
“But honestly, I would say Denis Irwin would be the one certainty to get in the team. I called him an eight out of 10.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 26, 2017
Irwin was recently asked why Ferguson had such an admiration for him and he explained that it was primarily down to hard work and not causing too many problems off the pitch.
“I went in and just got about my job. I wasn’t a star player, but Fergie still appreciated me,” Irwin told FourFourTwo.
“I didn’t cause him too much stress. My peers appreciated what I did, too. Maybe to the fan in the street I didn’t make headlines because I wasn’t a star player, but I didn’t want the limelight.
“I worked my socks off, trained hard and tried to learn from mistakes. Gary Neville was the same as me. Full-backs were pawns on a chessboard when I played.
“They’re more important now in the game. We had Giggsy or Becks in front of our full-backs to cross the ball. Twenty years ago, if one full-back went forward, the other stayed back. Now, both go forward in the top teams.”