Ahead of Manchester United's pre-season friendly at Aviva Stadium, this August against La Liga side Athletic Bilbao, we caught up with football legend Denis Irwrin to talk about his memories of playing at Landsdowne Road and his thoughts on the 99 Treble winning team.
Ticketmaster: We’re sure you miss playing football, but is pre-season one of the things that you’re happy to be finished with?
Denis Irwin: Yeah, absolutely.
Although, they don’t do as much physical running as what we did, it was kind of a different era. I travel with the lads pre-season now and they literally train, play football, the matches, train, and they don’t see much of the area. Much the same as I did as well. But it’s part and parcel, it’s a big, big, big part of football to get prepared for the season. So in that respect, the whole thing is to get through pre season without injury.
Ticketmaster: Do you have any bad memories from pre-season, or any particular memories?
Denis Irwin: Not bad memories, I mean, we travelled for the first few years I joined United we used to travel to Ireland and Scotland, more Norway, Sweden, that kind of area which I loved and then we started traveling to South East Asia, Malaysia and Thailand and then even further than that. The Far East, China and Japan. And even ended up in Australia the year after we won the Treble. So there was a lot of travel involved, and I know being an Irishman I would have rathered stay kinda close to home.
Ticketmaster: What’s your favourite memory of playing at the old Landsdowne Road?
Denis Irwin: Just the noise, the atmosphere. It’s completely changed now, for the better I suppose. But that old rustic feeling of the old Landsdowne with the little pub down the corner, it brings back great memories for me. It was a great atmosphere.
I was fortunate to play on an Ireland team at a time that was very much on the up and we were qualifying for big tournaments or just lost on the playoffs with a lot of big games here.
Ticketmaster: And how did that compare to the atmosphere at Old Trafford?
Denis Irwin: Oh, brilliant, I mean atmosphere and Old Trafford has always been fantastic. It still is now. It’s just football, it’s just loved isn’t it? The Premier League is the biggest league in the world and to play for Ireland, to play for your home country here in front of your home fans, you can’t get any better than that.
Ticketmaster: I’m sure you probably saw the Champions League final the other night, how do you think that current Manchester City team compares to the ’99 Treble winning team for Man United?
Denis Irwin: I think it’s hard to compare, it’s different eras. I think both had great managers.
I think it shows you how hard it is in England to achieve a Treble, two teams have done it.
And yeah, there will be comparisons, but I think it’s almost impossible. What I will say is that both teams, had great managers, both teams had great players, great squads.
It’s a great achievement, it really is. It’s only when you look back on it now you realise how big it was. Listen, somebody had to join record.
If anybody goes ahead and breaks record and wins all four that would be truly incredible but it’s a great achievement for both clubs.
Ticketmaster: Are there any particular signings you would like to see United making this summer?
Denis Irwin: Well, I thought we made some great signings last year, we needed some leaders and I’m thinking Casemiro, we did that.
I think we need a centre forward and there’s going to be loads of names bandied about. The last two, three months showed that we needed a goal scorer. Probably need another midfielder as well.
Again, names have been linked in the papers but we need to sign a couple of really good additions for us to keep moving forward.
Ticketmaster: The most important question, Eric Cantona has a gig coming up in Dublin in October on Halloween night. Have you ever heard him sing and will you be attending?
Denis Irwin: First of all, I didn’t know he was coming here on my birthday, Halloween night, so I’ll maybe try to get across there. Have I heard him sing? I don’t think so. Is he singing that night? Ah that would be interesting! He’s a man upon himself, isn’t it? I had four and a half years with an absolute aura about him. The fact that he went into acting as well. Brilliant. Now I’ll have to have a look at that!
Manchester United play Athletic Bilbao on Sunday 6 August 2023. Tickets are on sale Thursday 15 June at 12pm here.