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Irwin: Coleman at the right age to join Man United, McNair will only get better.

The legendary Man United full-back gave his thoughts on two Irish defenders and how they could fit into Louis van Gaal’s plans.

Irwin at Setanta Sports' European coverage event yesterday.
Irwin at Setanta Sports' European coverage event yesterday.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

DENIS IRWIN KNOWS a thing or two about what it takes to be successful as a full-back at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

The Cork man, nicknamed Mr Dependable while at Old Trafford, spent 12 years with Manchester United during a period when Alex Ferguson’s side dominated domestically. The club’s second most decorated player behind Ryan Giggs still today, Irwin won seven Premier League titles and three FA Cups as well as the Champions League in 1999.

Those days are a distant memory, however, and, after David Moyes’ short-lived reign, Louis van Gaal is attempting to kick-start the post-Fergie era by securing a top-four league finish and a return to Europe’s elite club competition having missed out last year.

There have already been big-money acquisitions in the shape of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao (on loan), Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera but United will certainly be strengthening again this summer and a player who has continuously been linked to the club is Everton’s Seamus Coleman.

The 26-year-old hasn’t quite reached the heights of the past two seasons this term but if he was to make a switch from the Toffees, Irwin is confident he has the ability to shine.

“Seamus has made great strides since he came over from Sligo,” Irwin said in Dublin yesterday. “He joined Everton and each year he has got better and better.

He has nailed down that right back slot and I think he’s in a good place at the moment because the manager he plays for likes to play attacking football. He’s at a solid club and he is at a good age as well.

“You’re always learning in the game but he is 26 now and it’s a good time for a footballer. You feel confident going out on the field and you can see that in his performances.

“Because of that, he is going to get linked to — no disrespect to Everton — teams that are playing more regularly in the Champions League. That is great for him and he is going to be linked to ourselves and no doubt other teams and that just shows you the strides he has made in the last two or three seasons.”

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Liverpool - Goodison Park Coleman playing in last weekend's Merseyside derby. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

With Van Gaal often lining up with a three centre backs and two wing-backs, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Rafael and Paddy McNair have all occupied the right flank at times.

The Dutchman, known for giving youth a chance, has shown a surprisingly amount of faith in 19-year-old Northern Ireland defender McNair and only last week suggested that he could be the club’s right back for the next ten years.

Irwin regularly gets to see McNair at both senior level and U21 as part of his work for MUTV and explained that he is a big fan of his.

“Paddy came into the team predominantly because there were a load of injuries in the opening half of this season and he played as one of three centre backs,” Irwin said. “I’ve seen quite a bit of him of late in the U21s where he has played very well at right back.

“He played against Cambridge last week and again did very well. The manager has got a great eye for players coming through because he has done it at Ajax and wherever has has gone.

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“So that must be music to Paddy’s ears because he is a young lad who is only going to get better. Whether he ends up at centre half, he is very comfortable on the ball so I have no doubt that right back at the moment is a possibility for him.

Britain Soccer Premier League Antrim's Paddy McNair has had a breakthrough season at United. Source: Jon Super

“Rafael has been injured this year and we have ended up with Valencia playing there because of that,” Irwin added. “I wouldn’t say that he is a natural right back but he has done fantastically well there.

“There will be opportunities for Paddy in games to come. I’m sure there will be. He might be playing against Preston (next Monday in the FA Cup) or against Burnley (tomorrow night) but it’s great that he is in the set-up.”

Denis Irwin and Gaizka Mendieta were in Dublin yesterday to announce details of Setanta Sports’ live coverage of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League for three years from 2015/’16. Irish viewers will have access to 350 live games per season across both competitions through the Setanta Sports Pack

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