Former Manchester United left-back Denis Irwin has reflected briefly on his relationship with former ex-teammate Jordi Cruyff, who currently holds the role as Barcelona’s sporting director of football.
The two European giants go head-to-head in the first leg of their Europa League play-off. Whoever wins the tie over two legs will progress to the last 16.
Jordi, son of Johan Cruyff, spent three seasons playing at Camp Nou before signing for Manchester United in 1996. He endured an underwhelming spell at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson, scoring eight goals in 58 appearances, but the highlight will be playing a part in the Treble-winning season – making three appearances in the group stages.
Injuries weren’t kind to Cruyff. He was a regular in Ferguson’s side until the end of November 1996, when he suffered a knee injury, which became a reoccurring theme throughout his time at the club.
In preparation for Thursday night’s Europa League clash against Barcelona, ManUtd.com have asked Denis Irwin whether he expected to see his old teammate Cruyff take on such a prestigious role in football after hanging up his boots in 2010.
“Yeah, I could, yeah,” Irwin said. “Jordi was always talking about football. Obviously, his dad was a fantastic player for Barcelona, a fantastic player for Holland. Manager of Barcelona as well.
“When we beat them in ’91 in the Cup Winners’ Cup he was manager, so I think it was always in his blood that after football he would go on and do something.
“Obviously he has arrived via a number of countries and I suppose at his home. I can see him being very intelligent and they’ve done very well this season, Barcelona, because they’ve had a tough two or three seasons as well and they’ve signed some really good players.
“It will be a tough test for us, but yeah I could see him and if you ask most of our ex-players that have played with Jordi as well, you could see him going and being involved in football in the future.”
United’s away trip to Barcelona is one of the earlier kick-offs on Thursday night (17:45 GMT).
Barcelona are currently on top of La Liga.