The Academy graduate, who made 176 appearances for the Club between 2005 and 2010, played in two victories over the Reds, including the memorable 2-1 away win in February 2008.
Pep Guardiola’s current crop of stars travel to Old Trafford on Saturday as reigning Premier League champions, but in Ireland’s day it was United who were in the ascendency as City often battled it out in the bottom half of the table.
With aspirations of silverware limited, it meant the derby held extra significance in the minds of the players and, for Ireland, there was no greater feeling than winning at the home of our local rivals.
“Playing in derbies was like our final,” he told mancity.com.
“That made our season. We knew we were going to have a tough season through the calibre of players we had at the time, the squad we had at the time.
“We knew we had to win the derbies. That was such a pickup for us and the fans. United really struggled to beat us when I was playing. It was like the pinnacle of our season.
“Playing at Old Trafford was probably a real massive incentive for me. That stadium I used to get nervous for more than anything.
“Winning there was the pinnacle because you leave Old Trafford, beating them on their home turf was the highlight of the season.
You can hear Ireland’s thoughts on derbies past and present in the video above, which is an excerpt from an upcoming feature coming soon to CITY+
Ireland is Superman, which takes its name from the popular chant sang in tribute to the midfielder, celebrates his time at the Club and includes interviews with fans, former team-mates and the man himself.