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

Mohamed Salah, Dejan Lovren,   Virgil van Dijk and Emre Can of Liverpool during a training session ahead of the Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Real Madrid may be the best team in the world, but Jürgen Klopp is the best manager

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah arrives at Kiev in advance of Saturday’s Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid at the NSC   Olimpiyskiy stadium. Photograph: Armando Babani/EPA

The Ukrainian city is in football mode, but reminders of the violence are always there

Manchester United missed the aerial presence of Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini in the FA Cup final. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

United boss Jose Mourinho blames FA Cup defeat on Lukaku and Fellaini absence

Manchester City’s  manager Pep Guardiola with his goalkeeper Ederson after the match at St Mary’s Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images

Beware of the recent ‘defending your title’ curse, but City’s style means they could soar

Steven Gerrard at Ibrox: Rangers fans are ecstatic that someone with his profile is joining them when other, perhaps better-informed managers have turned them down. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Liverpool’s match-winner plumps for possibly the worst opportunity in soccer

 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts during his team’s match against Manchester United  at Old Trafford on April 29th. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

Arsene Wenger’s side will get a lesson on what they lack when they face Atlético

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane after missing an early chance at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

AS Roma’s early confidence rapidly dissolved at Anfield

Arsène Wenger: Match-going Arsenal fans,  paying  the top prices of any club in the world, have increasingly felt ripped off in recent years. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Club's strict financial model worked well for the manager and board, if not for supporters

Mo Salah: the season’s outstanding player. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

De Bruyne’s the better all-rounder, but the Liverpool striker is astonishing

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is the world’s best-paid manager because he is the only current manager who is commonly said to have changed the way we think about football.  Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

City coach’s high-minded approach sets him up for criticism but record speaks for itself

Christian Eriksen celebrates with Dele Alli after scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Roman Abramovich needs to adopt a new outlook if no longer willing to spend big

The terrible and unnecessary new World Cup ball allows some people to complain about the game’s enslavement to capitalism; others take the chance to reminisce about their own favourite balls of times gone by

The narratives surrounding the country right now leave little room for organisers' attempts at positive spin

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho leaves the pitch alongside Paul Pogba after the FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Might Lukaku’s good performances have more to do with style than with personal qualities?

Burnley’s English striker Ashley Barnes trips up a pitch invader during the Premier League clash between West Ham United and Burnley at The London Stadium. Photo: Ben Stansall/Getty Images

Disillusioned fans vent ire at rich owners who lack a coherent strategy on the game

Borussia Dortmund: the club aren’t selling half-and-half scarves for their Europa League match against Red Bull Salzburg. Photograph: TF-Images via Getty

Dortmund will not produce half-and-half Red Bull scarves, cash killing Premier League

Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte shake hands after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Contrast between Lukaku and Morata’s performance was the story of the match

Real Madrid’s  Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates at the end of the last 16  first leg victory over Paris Saint-Germain. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

Engrained culture of battling for a ‘cause’ familiar to Real Madrid and Barcelona

Jose Mourinho  issues instructions to Paul Pogba during the recent defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Photograph: Ian Kingston/AFP/Getty

Gifted Frenchman’s natural position is clearly not as a shield in front of back four

Liverpool’s  Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk in action with Tottenham’s Fernando Llorente at Anfield on Sunday. Photograph: Andrew Yates/ Reuters

Klopp and Pochettino disagreed on penalties, but game was example of where top level football is going

 Craig Pawson, match referee, watches the VAR screen before awarding a penalty to Liverpool during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match against West Brom at Anfield. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

NFL system would prevent the new practice from being too finicky and overbearing

 Manchester United manager José Mourinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Despite scoring United’s last goal of the 2017 season as they won the Europa League against Ajax in Stockholm, Mkhitaryan never really seemed to win Mourinho’s trust. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Armenian will thrive at Arsenal while Sánchez can show his creativity at United

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill : “Painful series of bad home performances ended in the disaster of the playoff against Denmark, which was, quite simply, one of the worst defeats in the history of Irish football.” Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Most supporters were happy to draw a line under manager’s time in charge

Barcelona present new signing   Philippe Coutinho. “If Liverpool were prepared to pay their best players more than €20 million a year, as Barcelona and Real Madrid do, then they would find their stars suddenly become resistant to the lure.” Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

There was a lot more at stake than a childhood dream in Coutinho’s move to Catalonia

Floyd Mayweather Jr backs Conor McGregor up against the ropes during the 10th round of their fight in Las Vegas. Photograph: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times

Cash is king for the Notorious but he now needs a new dream to chase

Manchester City players celebrate after the fourth goal in their 4-1 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Pep Guardiola’s side are quickly becoming the best team the league has ever seen

José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola issue instructions to their respective teams during the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/EPA

Despite Mourinho’s protestations, City’s clear superiority is now plain for all to see

Construction workers on Khalifa International Stadium ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

The Workers’ Cup, a film about the hard lives of stadium labourers, is sad and revealing

Wide strikers such as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool, above, rarely cross and they shoot at goal as often as traditional centre-forwards. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

He’s not a winger at all – football terminology needs to catch up with changes in the game

West Brom manager  Tony Pulis during Saturday’s  match  against Chelsea at The Hawthorns.  West Brom lost 4-0. Photograph:   Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A criticism of the West Brom manager is the way his teams tend to switch off after 40 points

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen  scores his second goal and Denmark’s third during the World Cup playoff second leg against the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva stadium. Photograph:  Aidan Crawley

Irish passion no match for Danish brains as lack of a plan is shown up in Dublin

Wes Hoolahan takes a selfie with a fan after the first leg in Copenhagen. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/ Inpho

Ireland’s most creative player likely to feature against Denmark only if Plan A is failing

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen in action in Saturday’s World Cup play-off first leg match against Ireland in Copenhagen. Photograph: Lars Moeller/Reuters

Everyone knows the top-level football is elsewhere, but it’s not about that anymore

United manager José Mourinho during the match against Chelsea. Photograph: EPA

United surely haven’t spent £322m to be history’s most expensive long-ball team

 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “When he senses the players are getting a little stale, he likes to remind them that they all started playing the sport not for money or fame, but for love.” Photograph: Armando Babani/EPA

Manager just needs trophies now to reinforce the real progress he has made at Tottenham

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp: “I really don’t want to blame players, and Dejan to be honest was not worse than others.” Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The managers showed how to avoid blaming the players while blaming the players

Jose Mourinho: “For me, the second half was a bit of chess, but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.” Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Anfield draw exposes gulf between respective managers’ footballing philosophy

Ireland’s David Meyler and James McClean tackle Joe Allen of Wales resulting in  the Welsh midfielder  leaving the pitch through injury in Cardiff. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Martin O’Neill’s side again proved why they are such a hard team to kill off

Martin O’Neill: has managed to coax a big performance from his side on previous occasions when the chips were down. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Republic manager to start with his most physically powerful line-up against Wales

  Callum O’Dowda could become a big player for this team in the near future. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Callum O’Dowda’s composure could keep James McClean out in Cardiff

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill agreed a new deal to stay on as manager until the 2020 European Championships. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Striking to hear O’Neill cite the number of season tickets sold during his time in charge

Empty seats: Barcelona played Las Palmas at  Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain.  Photograph: Reuters/Albert Gea

Many on the board believed it was wrong to play on the day of the Catalan referendum

 Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates after the victory over Leicester City. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

Liverpool have a better chance of success if they keep taking the game to the opposition

Morgan Schneiderlin, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kevin Mirallas after losing at Old Trafford. Everton’s new-look attack is dismally short on speed and power. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Filling the void left by a man who scored 40 per cent of their league goals a real problem

 Arsene Wenger: One of the reasons we will miss Wenger when he is gone is that he is one of the only people in football who tries to make connections between what happens in the game and what happens in the rest of the world.  Photograph:  Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

Arsenal manager looks to have given up the fight in this era of nine figure transfer fees

Wes Hoolahan is replaced by Daryl Murphy as Ireland chase an equaliser against Serbia at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Hoolahan’s absence felt in final quarter as O’Neill’s men fail to capitalise on red card

Martin O’Neill says the Serbs are technically better than Ireland but that his players will put their “heart and soul” into it. Photograph:  David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Ken Early: With a solid game plan, smaller countries can overcome more talented opposition

Harry Arter shoots during Ireland’s match against Austria in Dublin in June. Photograph: Inpho

Arter, Hendrick and McCarthy can form Ireland’s midfield unit for next few seasons

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. When an oligarch-owned club like Chelsea sets new benchmarks for fees and wages, the other clubs are forced to “get rich or die trying” if they want to compete. Photograph:  Clive Mason/Getty Images

Most takeovers by wealthy owners end in failure and it simply adds to fans’ alienation

Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a punch against Conor McGregor during the 10th round of their fight. Mayweather wore down McGregor to set up a punishing end with a 10th-round TKO. Photograph: Bridget Bennett/The New York Times

Even in defeat McGregor will continue to polarise opinion and nowhere more than his homeland

Conor McGregor takes a punch to the face from Floyd Mayweather during their bout in Las Vegas. Photo: John Gurzinski/Getty Images

Dubliner never stood a chance against the master but comes away with $100m in the bank

 Floyd Mayweather  and  Conor McGregor face off during a news conference at the KA Theatre at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino  in Las Vegas ahead of their  super welterweight fight on Saturday. Photograph:   Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mayweather will try to make his opponent feel lost and lonely in the boxing ring

 Antonio Conte celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium yesterday. Photograph:  Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Current Chelsea manager wants players who are tactically flexible – and he won’t tolerate slacking

Tottenham Hotspur’s Danny Rose: Spurs’ revenues have increased by 50 per cent, thanks to the efforts of players like Rose, but very little of this increase has been passed on to the players. Photograph:  John Walton/PA Wire.

This is the premiership, not ‘Oliver Twist’, and Rose was right to ask for more money

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar arrives on the pitch during his presentation to the fans at the Parc des Princes stadium. Photograph:  Alain Jocardalain/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian not moving to PSG for the challenge – money remains his bottom line

Hitting the ground: Robbie Brady and Martin Hinteregger in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Austria. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA Ireland’s Robbie Brady is tackled by Austria’s Martin Hinterregger during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Photo: Aidan crawley/EPA

Ireland struggled to get going in a game they would have been expecting to win at home

Jon Walters scored a peach and then missed a golden opportunity in Ireland’s friendly win over Uruguay. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty

Aviva treated to a fun evening as Martin O’Neill’s men warm-up nicely for Austria

 Manchester United’s  Paul Pogba and Ajax Amsterdam’s Hakim Ziyech vie for the ball during the Uefa Europa League final  at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Criticism of Paul Pogba ignores context – no one can run the game in Mourinho’s United

More articles