Paul Pogba accused of 'leg-breaking' tackle by Graeme Souness

·4-min read
Paul Pogba accused of 'leg-breaking' tackle by Graeme Souness
Paul Pogba accused of 'leg-breaking' tackle by Graeme Souness

Graeme Souness accused Paul Pogba of attempting a potentially "leg-breaking" tackle on Ruben Neves, in another withering attack on the Manchester United midfielder.

Souness renewed his long-running feud with Pogba in his analysis of the crucial moment in United's 1-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, with the French midfielder's challenge coming moments before Mason Greenwood’s decisive goal.

United's victory extended their unbeaten away record to 28 matches but Souness insisted Pogba should have been punished for the late tackle on Neves.

Pogba appeared to go in for a challenge with his studs up, with the incident occurring directly in front of referee Mike Dean.

"That's a leg-breaker. Pogba doesn't make any contact with the ball whatsoever. He made contact with the shin and the shinguard," said Souness, who was working as a pundit on Sky Sports.

"The referee is not blind-sided by anything, he's two metres away from it. Whether Neves goes down immediately or doesn't go down, that is immaterial. That is a leg-breaker. Look how close he is.

"That referee has deemed that not to be a foul. That's impossible for anyone who knows anything about football to say that's not a foul. He's two yards away."

Paul Pogba is congratulated by his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Manchester United's 1-0 win at Wolves - Getty
Paul Pogba is congratulated by his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Manchester United's 1-0 win at Wolves - Getty

Pogba was not even booked for the challenge, later claiming it was a "50-50" and that he "didn’t touch" the Wolves midfielder.

Neves, however, argued it was a clear foul and said he had even shown Dean and his assistant referees the impact on his leg.

"Everyone saw it, everyone saw my leg, we always do meetings and everything with referees about Var, I don’t know why," he said.

"They said before the season started they will look for contact – if the contact is strong enough, they will give the foul. I showed them my leg.

"After the game he said ‘you both go to the ball’ and I said ‘yes, we both go to win the ball but I was the one who touched the ball’. It’s a foul, a clear foul."

United moved up to third in the Premier League and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed Cristiano Ronaldo is in line to make his second debut against Newcastle on September 11.

Referee's view: Wolves have every right to be aggrieved

By Keith Hackett, former Premier League referee

Premier League referees have been told to adopt a ‘lighter touch’ and let the game flow but I fear this could lead to a serious injury.

You need players to react sensibly to this new approach but I know from experience that players will try to take advantage of it.

The real danger is that we will see more tackles like the one from Paul Pogba on Ruben Neves. From the first angle, the one that was afforded to Mike Dean, it does not appear that any contact has been made. The player stayed on his feet before going to ground, which did not help the referring process.

But in slow motion there is no doubt that Pogba has gone in with his studs raised and catches his opponent. At the minimum it is reckless, so a sanction of a free kick and a yellow card should be applied.

On this occasion Wolves have every right to be aggrieved. This is probably where Var could and should have helped Dean and deemed the decision an obvious error.

Player behaviour at Euro 2020 was good but what we have here in the Premier League is a high intensity game and crowds who motivate players. Sometimes that goes in the wrong direction.

The referees are not on the receiving end of it like a player is. You need to think about the mindset of a player.

One of the things a referee does is judge the temperature of the game - how the players respond, what is their tolerance level like, whether they themselves are becoming frustrated and are likely to take this out on an opponent.

Adopting a ‘loose touch’ makes it more likely players could lose control and Mike Riley has to monitor if it leads to an increase in injuries and act accordingly.