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Olympics2000

Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Irwin makes Royle tribute
Denis  Irwin
Denis Irwin: Ready for his special night
Denis Irwin testimonial
Manchester Utd v Manchester City

Manchester United's Denis Irwin steps out for his testimonial paying tribute to the manager who saved his career.

United's 34 year-old full-back - the longest serving professional on the Old Trafford staff - reckons Joe Royle, now boss of opponents Manchester City, should take the credit for rescuing him from the soccer scrapheap.

Irwin has scooped 15 major medals in his 10-year United career, but it was Royle, way back in May 1986, who put Irwin on the road to fame.

In those days the thoughts of winning the European Cup were far from Cork-born Irwin's mind when he was axed by Leeds United and given a free transfer.

'Stepping stone'

Royle stepped in and brought Irwin to Oldham for nothing, paving the way to a career that has seen the Republic of Ireland ace collect six Premiership medals in a remarkable career.

Joe Royle
Joe Royle played key role in Irwin's career

Irwin said: "Joe Royle got my career up and running again and I owe him an awful lot.

"I got released and Oldham picked me up. I had four years there and they were the stepping stone for me to the success I've had at United. I had four great years there."

Irwin left for 650,000, and said Royle: "That was a lot of money for a full-back in those days, but I don't think Sir Alex Ferguson would disagree that Denis was probably pound for pound his best ever signing."

Now old boss Royle takes City to Old Trafford to pay tribute to one of soccer's unsung heroes.

Royle said: "Denis has been fantastic for United, I don't think he's ever been dropped and he's been the best British full-back of the past decade.

"Tell me someone who has been better or won more? I doubt there's anyone to touch him. And in this day and age, he's one of the players who genuinely deserve a testimonial."

Denis Irwin
Denis Irwin was fans' favourite at Oldham

On Irwin, Royle recalls: "He played for Oldham in those amazing FA Cup semi-finals with United, and Fergie saw in those games he could play against the best.

"Sir Alex told me he'd had the lad watched more than 20 times before he made his bid and never had a bad report.

"That's the reality of Denis Irwin. He never lets you down, and he's seen off a whole host of other full-backs at United, and he's still first choice at 34."

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