Old Trafford has been home to many a world class defender over the years but few have come close to matching Denis Irwin when it comes to a fan favourite.
The Irishman played over 500 games for the Red Devils and left after 12 illustrious seasons having won seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and the Champions League and the club has struggled to replace him ever since.
The likes of Gabriel Heinze and to a greater extent Patrice Evra have sewn their names into the United tapestry, while there is plenty of optimism surrounding Luke Shaw’s future but the 20-time champions may just have snapped up the new Irwin in Ireland U16 captain Lee O’Connor.
The 15-year-old has followed in the footsteps of fellow Waterford native John O’Shea after agreeing terms with the Old Trafford club and having represented his country at all youth levels the expectations are high for the youngster.
His performances for the Green Army led to O’Connor receiving the FAI U-15 Player of the Year award from Seamus Coleman and like Coleman, and Irwin before him, O’Connor is an attack-minded full-back equally capable of defending and bombing forward to create chances.
The teenager leaves his current club, Villa FC, in July to start training with Nicky Butt’s United Academy team and if he goes on to achieve even a quarter of what Irwin managed it will go down as a fantastic piece of business and continue a long line of high-flying Irishmen associated with the club.
The Red Devils are next in action at Wembley Stadium on Saturday when they take on Everton looking to secure a place in the FA Cup final and go into the game as even-money favourites, with Coleman’s Everton – fresh from a 4-0 drubbing by Liverpool – priced up at 13/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.