Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “I am not going to protect myself. I am going to do what is best for the club, what I think and we feel is right for the club and I will never put myself before the club.” Photograph:  Paul Ellis/AFP

Risking injured players shows loyal club man also motivated by vigorous self-interest

 Lucas Moura of Spurs and  Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.  The Spur’s striker was giving up 20cm in height and 20kilos in weight  to Van Dijk. It didn’t look like a formula for success.  Photograph:  EPA/Neil Hall

A side that sits back and lets Liverpool have the ball is actually playing into their hands

Liverpool’s James Milner sits injured  during Sunday’s FA Cup third round match against Everton at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Players not only have to cover greater distances in matches but also have to do it faster

A view of the FAI AGM at the Citywest Hotel on Sunday. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Delegates given a chance to ask questions although solicitors were there to vet them

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates  after winning the Club World Cup in Doha, Qatar. Photograph:  Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Klopp is a rare example of a massively successful professional who is simultaneously humble

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola knew what was coming against Manchester United but they proved incapable of stopping it. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Absence of Fernandinho from midfield leaves champions open to counter-attacks

Lionel Messi’s pre-match address to his team at Anfield: “We can’t waste this opportunity, okay? Give everything, now that we are here. We have to start strong. Remember Roma was our fault. Nobody else’s. We mustn’t let the same thing happen.” Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty

Club documentary shows Messi summoning the negative ghosts of Rome in Anfield dressing room

City manager Pep Guardiola during the game against  Chelsea at the  Etihad Stadium, Manchester.  City won 2-1. Photograph:  Reuters/Andrew Yates

Often teams who has excelled under ultra-demanding manager suddenly collapse

Danish players celebrate at the final whistle as Republic of Ireland players fall to the ground around them after the Euro 2020 qualifier. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland scored just seven goals in this campaign. Denmark scored three times as many

A videograb of Thierry Henry’s handball that led to France’s goal in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers play-off between France and Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Sky Sports

How I ended up missing out on the collective outrage about France’s infamous handball

Seething: Pep Guardiola. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

Some squad members have absorbed much highly strung praise from furious manager

José Mourinho  waving to fans from a TV studio during the  match between United and Liverpool at Old Trafford  on October 20th. Maybe his  hour  is at hand to offer   Arsenal fans   a new enemy to tear apart every week, the grinning ringmaster at the circus of hate. Photograph:  Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

With the way things are going at Arsenal, maybe the time has come for a lurch to the dark side

Liverpool’s Fabinho  in action against Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur during their English Premier League game at Anfield on Sunday. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Klopp’s 2018 signings made the difference, while Pochettino signed no one that summer

Liverpool players appeal to  referee Martin Atkinson  after he allows the opening goal for Manchester United despite a disputed challenge  on Liverpool’s striker Divock Origi in the build up. Photograph:  Oli Scarff/AFP/ Getty

United fans will lose patience with a team that embraces a counter-attacking strategy

Shane Duffy reacts after conceding the second goal against Switzerland. Photograph: EPA

Ireland looked like a side trying out a new idea in pre-season against Switzerland

Connolly has made a strong case to start against Switzerland on Tuesday. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ireland have been getting away with it in this campaign and their luck could soon run out

Manager Mick McCarthy and Seamus Coleman at a Republic of Ireland press conference in  Tbilisi, Georgia. Photograph:   Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Flying 10,000km to watch a match will some day be seen as a mad thing people used to do

Pep Guardiola has a different perspective from the one most players have grown up with. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP via Getty

Manchester City boss needs to avert loss of faith in system after series of setbacks

 Frank Lampard applauds the Chelsea fans following the 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The man overseeing the hoped-for miracle is Chelsea’s good old days in human form. Photograph:  Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Fans will only continue to back youth policy project if it brings the required results

Michael Owen during the Manchester United era in 2009. Photograph: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire

Squeaky-clean images were a response to the fearsome tabloid machine of their era

Ireland’s Alan Judge is tackled by Kristiyan Malinov of Bulgaria during the international friendly at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Perhaps the decision to move Conor Hourihane was actually to experiment in midfield

Georgia on his mind: Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at their Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland on September 5th.  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Our football is stuck in the past, and there seems to be no going back to the future

Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez, Granit Xhaka and Nico Elvedi appeal for a corner during the Euro 2020 qualifier against Ireland. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Mick McCarthy in charge, Roy Keane in the headlines – it felt like little had changed

After the Champions League final defeat to Liverpool, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino supposedly spent the first half of June moping in his apartment in Barcelona, scarcely able to muster the energy to go outside. Photograph: Getty

Players being offered the opportunity to work twice as hard to stay in the same place

Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba of Manchester United during their Premier League match against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday. Photograph: Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images

Nominating two penalty takers is nominating none, and creating extra uncertainty

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte handles the ball in the build-up to the goal scored by Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus that is later disallowed following a VAR review. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Bad call that cost City victory against Spurs highlights a problem with how VAR is used

City manager Pep Guardiola is shown a yellow card by referee Martin Atkinson during the  Community Shield game  between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium. Photograph:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Taking the plaudits is great, but now it’s time for City and Liverpool to get back to work

In leaving Barcelona for Paris, Neymar prioritised money, and money is what he has got. Photograph:  Kamil Zihnioglu/AP Photo

Neymar’s two unhappy years in Paris have been lucrative for one family member in particular

Argentina’s Lionel Messi  during the Copa America match against Colombia in Salvador, Brazil, on June 15th. His team lost 2-0. Photograph: Getty Images

The style in which Diego Maradona did things inspired passionate devotion

Memphis Depay of the Netherlands evades John Stones of England. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

Leave the high-end stuff to the Champions League. At international level, basic is best

Denmark’s Thomas Delaney and Jeffrey Hendrick battle for the ball. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Getty Images

Technical shortcomings aside Ireland already look an improved side under McCarthy

Tottenham Hotspur’s Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen reacts to their defeat as Liverpool players celebrate their victory in the Champions League final last weekend. Photograph:  Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Midfielder will struggle to be motivated after Champions League heartache with Spurs

Liverpool players throw manager Jurgen Klopp in the air after winning the Champions League final  at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, on Saturday. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The mass celebrations in Madrid and Liverpool were no mere happy accident

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker takes a selfie after the victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final at the  Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Brazilian goalkeeper made the big saves when Tottenham’s pressure rocked Liverpool late on

Mauricio Pochettino, manager of Spurs, and Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool.  Their teams   meet in the Champions League final at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Photograph: Getty Images

Pochettino has a big decision to make on Kane, Klopp is trying to arrest dismal final record

Barcelona’s Coutinho looks dejected as Valencia players celebrate their first goal during the Copa del Rey victory at the  Estadio Benito Villamarin, Seville. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozp/Reuters

Reality is club failed to identify a suitable role within the side for the talented Brazilian

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the Premier League title following their 4-1 defeat of Brighton & Hove Albion  at American Express Community Stadium. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Premier League a testament to City manager – but defeat to Spurs will surely rankle

 Jurgen Klopp:   “We will be champion or not, it’s destiny. It’s like this. Because we do everything, we cannot do more.”  Photograph:  Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

Should fairytale title finish not materialise, Liverpool boss facing a real conundrum

Naby Keita of Liverpool scores his team’s first goal during the Premier League win over Huddersfield Town. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Analysis based on yesteryear is pointless in game that has changed unrecognisably

Ole Gunnar Solskjær: it’s a safe bet the board would be talking about sacking had they not hired him on a permanent basis less than a month ago. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He has inherited a Manchester United squad of limited mobility and uncertain character

FAI executive vice-president John Delaney arrives at Leinster House, Dublin, as representatives of the FAI   give evidence to an Oireachtas committee hearing. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

When it comes to winning respect of provincial leagues, nothing beats giving them money

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring  late against Atletico Madrid  at the Camp Nou  in Barcelona. Photograph:  EPA/Alejandro Garcia

A decade on from Pep, they are just a normal rich team with the best player in the world

Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson in action. Jurgen Klopp’s loyalty to him tells us a couple of interesting things about the Liverpool manager’s way of thinking. Photograph: Getty Images

Lloris’ error left Klopp celebrating rather than irritably justifying a failed team selection

FAI executive vice-president John Delaney and Emma English in the stands during Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying win over Georgia. Photo: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Is it too much to suggest that the former FAI CEO deliberately took spotlight off the team?

Republic of Ireland supporters with an anti-Delaney banner at the qualifier against Gibraltar at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Stepping aside of Irish football’s dominant figure will be seen as overdue by most fans

Mick McCarthy: his forthright response in Iran in 2001 helped to quell questions about  Irish identity. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Daily drip-drip of horror easily forgotten by a young Rice or the crowd at Madison Square Garden

With his conscientious Scandinavian modesty, his get-on-with-it optimism and his apparent childlike love of the club, Ole Gunnar Solskjær could not have been more perfectly scripted as the anti-Mourinho. Photograph:  Reuters/ Eddie Keogh

Dazzling start has so far only transformed a disastrous season into a merely bad one

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi argues with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos during the El Clásico match between the sides on Saturday night. Photo: Curto de la Torre/Getty Images

Video assistant referee could further undermine soccer's integrity

 Jurgen Klopp applauds the crowd after the draw against Leicester City at Anfield. Photograph:  Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Supporters still struggling to make the leap of faith that all will end well this season

FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu  with Dutch player Frenkie de Jong,  in Amsterdam last week. Barcelona has announced signing the Ajax midfielder for €75 million plus a possible €11 million in add-ons. Photograph:  EPA

Big transfer sagas are so lengthy that by the end the player will do anything just to make it stop

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri gestures on the touchline during  his side’s 2-0 defeat to Arsenal  at the Emirates Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

Italian manager does not have the players in the squad to make his style work yet

Manchester United’s interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær celebrates victory over Tottenham in the  the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London. Photograph: John Walton/PA

Wembley victory over Spurs a major feather in United interim-manager’s cap

Joe Mattock of Rotherham United looks dejected during as Manchester City go 7-0 up during the FA Cup third round clash at the Etihad. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been transferred for a huge fee, good luck getting a Premier League game, son

Unai Emery: His kid-gloves handling of Neymar at PSG brought neither success nor respect. He won’t make the same mistake with Ozil at Arsenal. Photograph: Ian KIngton/Getty Images

Manager’s priority has to be to address brittle side’s long-term defensive weakness

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino celebrates after the final whistle against Everton at Goodison Park. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Spurs look like contenders but will the manager practise what he preaches and stay?

Jose Mourinho is driven away from his hotel  after being sacked by Manchester United . Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Special One has never recovered from losing faith in his own myth at Real Madrid

 Manchester United manager José Mourinho reacts during his team’s match against Liverpool at Anfield. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

José’s ultra-cynical approach to the game reflects the concerns of the club itself

David Luiz: his big hair makes him different, which is immediately provocative. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Individual scapegoating has done much to keep English football stupid over the years

 Divock Origi of Liverpool scores a strange goal past Jordan Pickford of Everton. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

For Liverpool, the need to win every game to cling on to Guardiola’s leaders is wearying

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at the Aviva press conference. Photograph:  ©INPHO/Gary Carr

Conflicting emotions the order of the day as 'Succession Plan 2022' is unveiled

Mick McCarthy: His popularity in the game means that he has hardly ever been out of work. Photograph: PA/  Toby Melville.

FAI has passed up the chance to take a new direction with Stephen Kenny

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane and manager Martin O’Neill at the Aviva Stadium for the game against Northern Ireland. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

On a week when Irish rugby has scaled rare heights, football is sinking to a new low

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Manchester United manager José Mourinho. United’s season is now about catching up with two of Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal to force their way into the Champions League qualification spots. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

United manager dismisses the stats – but he knows the numbers are going against him

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak: his  alleged threat to Fifa reminds us that it feels as though the legal system is something the rich use as a club to batter opposition into submission.  Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Big European clubs see they have more in common with sheikhs than domestic leagues

Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid reacts as Philippe Coutinho of Barcelona scores his side’s first goal in a 5-1 thrashing. Photograph: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Lopetegui’s failure in Madrid is down to Ramos’s rapid decline and Ronaldo’s exit

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane at the Aviva before the Wales game. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The manager's certainty following the loss to Wales was at odds with current form

Cyrus Christie challenges Thomas Delaney during Ireland's goalless draw with Denmark. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty

Even Messi needs three chances to score a goal, Ireland seldom create three in a match

José Mourinho: claims he is the victim of a ‘manhunt’ as speculation about his future at Old Trafford mounts. Photograph:  Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty

Master propagandist busy painting Woodward and United hierarchy into an awkward spot

Sturridge celebrates his goal with team mates and a rogue fan. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Sarri and Klopp have made the game enjoyable for their players and it reaps rewards

 City manager Pep Guardiola during the Premier League  match against Cardiff.  He has insisted many times that the Champions League is  a completely different competition to the Premier League. Photograph:  Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Empty seats at the Etihad could have contributed to opening 2-1 defeat to Lyon

Harry Kane reacts to a missed chance during Tottenham's Premier League loss to Liverpool at Wembley. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool and Spurs are both teams that don't rely on superstars and Kane must realise that

Spain’s Rodrigo and England’s John Stones fight for the ball during Saturday’s Nations League match at Wembley Stadium. Photograph: EPA/Neil Hall

International friendlies had completely lost their relevance and competition is needed

Declan Rice may just have decided he didn’t fancy the Ireland setup. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Most players declare for Ireland through convenience, not a deep love for the country

Nice guy? Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery during the match against Manchester City at the Emirates. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

If any club was crying out for a new direction, it’s Arsenal. Why then did Petr Cech start?

The France team celebrating after lifting the World Cup in Moscow. Photograph:  AFP Photo/Adrian Dennis

If Les Bleus could win at such a canter, maybe there's something wrong with the race?

France midfielder Paul Pogba is among the players who have dominated in the tournament. Photograph: Franck FIfe/AFP/Getty Images

Pace, power, and passion: José’s kind of football is on its way back to the top

Croatia players salute their fans as they celebrate after their World Cup semi-final win over England in Moscow. Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Phrase went from ironic joke to arrogant prediction and gave opponents motivation

 Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic celebrates scoring the winning goal in their World Cup semi-final against England having earlier been dragged off in agony. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Southgate’s men unable to respond to Perisic’s equaliser while opponents grow stronger

England’s Harry Kane and Phil Jones play with a toy rooster during training ahead of their  World Cup semi-final  against Croatia. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

A jubilant and delirious nation is expecting its superheroes to take it to the final

Kylian Mbappe celebrates France’s 1-0 win over Belgium. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

Kylian Mbappé sublime as Belgium are outfought in subdued St Petersburg semi-final

England players celebrate the victory on penalties over Columbia in the last 16 clash. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty.

No room for objective analysis or comment when it comes to England’s World Cup run

Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera lets Antoine Griezmann’s shot slip through his hands during the 2018 World Cup quarter-final against France in Nizhny Novgorod. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Didier Deschamps side played very much to the manager’s style in getting the job done

 England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves  Carlos Bacca’s  penalty during the  penalty shootout with Colombia in the World Cup Round of 16  match at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Harry Maguire’s performance summed up how Gareth Southgate’s side has grown up

 Willian (left) plays the ball in for Neymar (far right) to score during the World Cup round of 16 match against Mexico at the Samara Arena. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA

The superstar displayed both the sublime and the ridiculous in victory over Mexico in Samara

Spain’s midfielder Koke reacts after missing a penalty kick during the penalty shoot-out ag-ainst Russia  at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Photograph: Francisco Leong/AFP/Getty

Last 16 clash proved that the golden era of Spanish football is well and truly over

Tourists and fans walk near the fan zone on Red Square in Moscow. Photograph: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty

Easy to jump to the wrong conclusions about a nation we only get a partial picture of

Paulinho of Brazil scores his team’s first goal during their 2018 World Cup Group E win over Serbia at Spartak Stadium. Photo: Simon Hofmann - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Neymar failed to get on the scoresheet but the five-time winners had more than enough

France’s Ngolo Kante and Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite battle for the ball during their Group C clash in Moscow.  Photo: Victor R. Caivano/AP Photo

Both sides went through the motions in Moscow but that could come to hurt French

England’s John Stones scoring their first goal against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. Photograph:  Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Panama were so awful it was hard to believe this was taking place at the World Cup finals

Germany’s coach Joachim Löw: “I’ve told the players, the most important things are energy and body language, and that was lacking in our match against Mexico.” Photograph: Getty Images

‘If the team brings to bear on the pitch their idea, their talent, their ability - we will prevail’

 Philippe Coutinho of Brazil celebrates after scoring their first goal in injury time. Photograph: EPA

Brazil leave it late to get past stubborn Costa Rica in Group E St Petersburg clash

 Russia’s  Denis Cheryshev celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the  World Cup Group A  match against Egypt at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Mohamed Salah scores late penalty after Egypt fell apart just after half-time

England captain Harry Kane  heads home his  his second goal in the World Cup Group G game against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena. Photograph:  Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Harry Kane’s late goal brings relief after an old school tournament performance

Only 2,500 England fans are expected in Volgograd. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Nation may expect, but this group of players not stirred by the old ‘up-and-at-em’ game

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his  third goal in the World Cup Group B clash with Spain at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Portuguese star’s performance was beyond efficiency - it was alchemy

Julen Lopetegui:  he can now look forward to being called a traitor by the half of Spain that is not already laughing at him. Photograph: Emilio Naranjo/EPA

Real mess as Madrid end up with national pariah Julen Lopetegui at the helm

Brazil players celebrate  a goal during their 3-0 victory against Austria in an international friendly   on Sunday  in Vienna. Photograph:   Getty Images

This tournament may be first World Cup in while when pure talent makes the difference

Russian president Vladimir Putin  and then to Fifa president Sepp Blatter during the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio. Photograph: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Suspicions of Russia and its president means Western expectations are very low

  Sergio Ramos celebrates with the trophy after Real Madrid retained  the Champions League with victory over Liverpool in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Salah’s injury and Karius’s disastrous display combine

More articles