There's life after Fergie: Irwin

Manchester United will continue to thrive even after Sir Alex Ferguson eventually retires. That is the view of United legend Denis Irwin, who played under the legendary Scot between 1990 and 2002.

The Red Devils went into a slump after another legendary manager, Sir Matt Busby, resigned in 1969. While the club became the first English side to win the European Cup in 1968, their downward spiral resulted in their relegation to the old Division II in 1974.

But former left-back Irwin told The New Paper: "The manager is obviously the main man of the club, but United are very stable.

"The managerial change will be a big moment for the club, but I wouldn't say it's going to be a time where there will be a big slump.

"Whoever comes in after Sir Alex will have a young squad to work with, although he will have his own philosophy on the game and players."

The former Irish international also doesn't believe that United are in a gradual decline, an observation made by some fans this season.

He said: "United have been very resilient and resolute this season, we have had to win games by one or two goals this year.

"But we have won the Premier League four times in the last five seasons, with a great chance this year. Yes, it wasn't a great year in Europe and everyone accepts that, but I wouldn't say they are in decline."

Irwin was more cautious when asked to comment on cross-town rivals City.

He said: "City are a very good side and both United and the manager will see them as a challenge.

"Sir Alex has seen many challenges in more than 20 years at the club, be it Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Arsenal or Chelsea.

"City will be challenging for the title in the next few years and they'd be disappointed if they don't win, but there are no guarantees in football, especially the Premier League.

"After all, City started well this season and everybody expected them to win. But both United and City stand a good chance at winning the title now."

Irwin is in Singapore as part of the English champions' trophy tour and witnessed the announcement of a deal between Thomas Cook Sport and Bonvo Travel for match-day packages here.

At another event later yesterday hosted by Turkish Airlines, the defender in Irwin came to the fore again as he responded to questions about United's form this season.

He said: "The team, in general, has come in for a lot of unfair criticism. There has been a lot of injuries to the squad; our best player Nemanja Vidic is out for most part of the season and we've got a very young defence.

"But they are only going to get better."

Looking ahead to the Manchester Derby on Tuesday morning (Singapore time), fellow United legend Paul Parker predicted that the titanic clash will not finish goalless.

Said the 48-year-old: "There will be goals. City, after a poor run of form, have gone back to where they were at the start of the season and scoring a lot of goals.

"City will change their game to adapt to United's, though."

In their last games, United drew 4-4 against Everton despite leading 4-2 while City beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0.

Despite the disparity in form, Irwin believes United will leave the Etihad Stadium next week relatively unscathed.

The 46-year-old said: "City are a very, very good side, especially at home, but we've got the best away record in the league."

Reds gave headache

And while the likes of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero will torment United defenders next, it was a pair of Liverpool players who used to give the two former United players massive headaches on the pitch.

Parker said: "The most difficult person I've every marked was Ian Rush. His movement was incredible and he was quite wily in the way he set himself up for chances as well."

Irwin added: "It would be John Barnes for me in the EPL and Hristo Stoichkov in Europe.

"I remember we once went to Barcelona and got beaten 4-0. Parks (Parker) had to mark this guy named Romario that day."

For the record, Stoichkov scored two and Romario, one. Albert Ferrer scored the other.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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