By Marcus Chhan
Sir Alex Ferguson's side head into the clash at the Etihad just three points ahead of rivals City with three games to go. With City currently enjoying a much better goal difference than United, the champions cannot afford to lose to their neighbours while Roberto Mancini's team know that a draw would not boost their own title ambitions at this stage of the season.
"I think to play at top clubs you have to be mentally strong because you are under the spotlight all the time as well," Irwin told ESPNSTAR.com in Singapore over the weekend.
"It's a global game - every fan around the world is going to be watching [the Manchester derby]. You know the way it has worked out, three games from the end, United players will have to be very brave and that takes a lot of mental strength to get on the ball even when somebody is trying to kick you and trying to stop you from playing.
"There will be goals in the game. There's been a history of goals in the last few [derbies].
"Something has to give. City at some point are going to have to go out and win the game if it is a draw late on. And United, if they are behind, they are going to have to try and do something to get back in the game."
In 12 decorated years at Old Trafford, Irwin was known as ‘Mr Dependable' for his ability to defend on either flank in the full-back position as well as his habit of scoring important goals for the club. Iriwn is no stranger to the high pressure games with seven Premier League winner medals, three FA Cup medals, and one UEFA Champions League winners' medal amongst the silverware he has collected after playing 529 times for United.
And he gave us some insight into how Sir Alex Ferguson will prepare his players prior to kick-off for Monday's massive Manchester derby.
"Of course he [Ferguson] will talk about the game. He'll talk about City's best assets on the football field but he'll go more into a general talk on how United can win the game - what areas to target," he said.
"He'll keep the players quite relaxed. The atmosphere is going to be fantastic. It's a game you have to play with your head as well, you don't want to be getting sent off or doing anything silly like that. Sir Alex will be saying all this, not just before the game but in the lead up to the game over the last few days.
"He'll be trying to relax his players and let them trust in their own ability, there's a Manchester United way in trying to get [Michael] Carrick and [Paul] Scholes on the ball and United will try to stamp their style of play on the game. City will obviously be trying to stamp their style as well as they are at home. It is going to be a tough game.
He added: "They [City] have to win but that doesn't necessarily mean they will attack from the offset. They can wait a while and see how the game pans out."
In defence United have suddenly looked shaky following a 4-4 draw with Everton at Old Trafford just over a week ago. The draw was made all the more disappointing considering that Everton scored twice in the final seven minutes to blow the Premier League title race wide open.
Culpable in the 4-4 draw was United's defending from the flanks with young full-back Rafael particularly woeful at the back. The Brazilian has delighted his fans during his time at the club with his forward play but one or two questions have been raised about his ability to defend.
United legend Irwin managed to score in double figures for the club during his career at Old Trafford but that never seemed to have a negative impact on his defensive work.
"Well when I started playing full-back you had to be a defender first and foremost and then be able to attack," he said.
"The modern day full-back seems to be a lot more attacking and if you look at the best players in the world now [in the position] Alves of Barcelona for example, they like to go forward. The team [Barcelona] obviously keeps a lot of possession so you need different avenues to attack and now the full-back is one of those avenues.
"In my day it was more about defending although at Manchester United you still got to be a good player on the ball and still got to be able to attack so the game has change, it's quicker there's no doubt about that and positions have changed a little bit but full-backs still have to defend."
Irwin was signed by Ferguson for just £625,000 and has been mentioned in the past by the Scot as pound for pound his greatest ever signing.
Perhaps Ferguson could do with showing his current full-backs in Patrice Evra and Rafael some video footage of how Irwin used to do the job week-in and week-out, on the left or right, ahead of Monday's title crunch.
Irwin was in Singapore over the weekend as a guest scout for Nike's The Chance trials.