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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been branded an “embarrassment” after suggesting the Premier League is in danger of resembling rugby matches.
The Manchester United manager’s comments came in the aftermath of last Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton, in which Bruno Fernandes was denied a free-kick.
The Portuguese playmaker was furious that a foul was not called for a robust challenge in the 30th minute by Jack Stephens, who quickly set up Che Adams to score through a deflected shot.
Premier League referees have been told to allow games to flow more and not penalise as many physical challenges, and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp accused Burnley of “wrestling” in their defeat at Anfield on Saturday.
Solskjaer said after the game that Stephens “goes straight through Bruno, with his arm and his hip across him. We can’t go from one extreme of volleyball or basketball last season to rugby now. I like the more lenient way, it’s more men’s football but still, that’s a foul.”
Both managers have come in for criticism for their comments and been accused of gamesmanship, with former Arsenal player Paul Merson the latest to censure the United boss by admitting that he “cringed” at the quotes from Solskjaer.
“I want to finish this column on what can only be described as an embarrassment to rugby union and rugby league players around the world,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“When Premier League managers are saying our game is becoming like rugby… please! I nearly fell off my chair, I cringed. It was an embarrassment.
“In rugby union and rugby league, players put their bodies on the line. Go and watch a rugby game live and hear the hits and then see if you turn around and say football is going down the rugby route.
“How is football turning into rugby when you can barely even tackle now?”