Mourinho defends celebration; Ireland looking close to full strength

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Manchester United’s José Mourinho is escorted off the pitch following his side’s Champions League win over Juventus. Photo: Alessandro Di Marco/EPA

Manchester United’s José Mourinho is escorted off the pitch following his side’s Champions League win over Juventus. Photo: Alessandro Di Marco/EPA

Almost 20 years on since Roy Keane’s “captain’s goal for Manchester United” inspired the Champions League semi-final comeback which spawned the treble, United came from behind once again in Turin to beat Juventus on a night of high drama. Granted, the group stage clash was not half the magnitude of a semi-final but this win could well have a big impact on José Mourinho’s reign. The United manager courted controversy himself at the final whistle when he came onto the pitch with his hand cupped around his ear to the derision of the Juventus fans who, according to the Portuguese, insulted him for 90 minutes. It came after a late comeback from United in which Juan Mata’s stunning free-kick and an injury time bundled own goal were enough to overturn Juventus’ lead which they had taken thanks to a superb Cristiano Ronaldo volley. The Italians still sit in the driving seat in Group H but United’s win has given them a much-needed cushion in second place with two games to go. Elsewhere, Manchester City blew Shakhtar Donetsk away with a 6-0 win which leaves them well primed to go on and top Group F. Elsewhere, Real Madrid continued their resurgence under Santiago Solari while Bayern Munich beat AEK Athens to take control of Group E.

In rugby we are now just two days away from Ireland’s meeting with Argentina at the Aviva Stadium but, if this is being seen as somewhat of a warm-up before the All Blacks visit next week, then attitudes need to change. As John O’Sullivan writes in his stats column this morning, the Pumas’ back three have more than enough to shred Ireland’s defence and cause an upset in Dublin. However, the Ireland squad is looking to be approaching its strongest as Rory Best and Sean O’Brien look set for a return. As Gerry Thornley writes from Carton House, “rarely has an Irish team been so difficult to call, and specifically from a position of strength, than is the case now; witness the secondrow and midfield as well as backrow.” One man who is determined to be at the centre of that action is Robbie Henshaw. The Leinster man has no qualms about being moved from fullback to centre but he does still hold that desire to get back to his favourite position. “More freedom, more freedom, more eyes I think,” he says. “More pressure under the high ball. Yeah, definitely, if you get the ball in space, you have options to kick, run or pass. You have more time on the ball to make your decision.”

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