Tuesday 25 June 2019

Shaw's injury shouldn't see tackling slide away

Luke Shaw suffered a broken leg during Manchester United’s game against PSV
Luke Shaw suffered a broken leg during Manchester United’s game against PSV
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

FOR some reason, there are people out there who compile YouTube clips of unlikely players, and until the first few games of this season, it would have been quite the achievement to get eight minutes' worth of highlights featuring Luke Shaw's career as a Manchester United player.

Nevertheless, somebody has managed it and among all of the good touches and crosses, there are a couple tackles which until last week wouldn't have merited any attention.

There's the one on Tony Hibbert when Shaw slides from the Everton player's right side and tackles with his left foot, wins the ball perfectly and sends Hibbert into the air.

Another is on Willian during their game against Chelsea when his opponent is trying to run down the wing and, as many a good full-back has done, Shaw slides, wins the ball and it goes out for a throw-in. Willian's well-being isn't particularly high on the consideration list of the applauding Old Trafford crowd.

The commentary isn't available on the clips but it seems likely that both challenges would have been praised highly without any thought given to what might have happened if Shaw's trailing leg had been at a slightly different angle or if either of the two players who were tackled had their foot planted in the ground at the time. In both cases, they could have suffered the same fate as the one Shaw did last week.


Shaw is far from a hatchet man but there isn't a defender who has played football for any period of time at any level who hasn't made a similar tackle to the one by Hector Moreno which ended with Shaw breaking the two bones in his lower leg.

A cursory glance through Saturday's Premier League highlights shows West Ham goalkeeper Adrian flying out and just missing Sergio Aguero; Yaya Toure attempting to prevent Diafra Sakho from scoring for West Ham by going off his feet; Oscar sliding recklessly on Mesut Ozil; Aaron Ramsey missing both Pedro and the ball with a flying tackle; Newcastle's Chancel Mbemba tangling with Watford's Troy Deeney; and Bournemouth's Charlie Daniels bringing down Sunderland's Billy Jones.

With a few inches of difference, all could potentially have resulted in serious injury, yet only Daniels was penalised - and he wasn't even booked.

Among all of the piousness around the Moreno tackle - much of it peddled by journalists - the question of what exactly he was meant to do in the situation hasn't been answered.

And anyone thinking that Moreno should just have let Shaw keep going and score when the ball was within reach needs to get back into an 11-a-side match where a "no slide-tackle" rule would be laughed at rather than agreed with as it usually is within the walls of a five-a-side pitch.

Moreno has been accused of using excessive force but the only way to lessen the force of that tackle would have been to slow down prior to sliding, which means he wouldn't have got to the ball in the first place.

Had he tackled with his upper leg, the downward angle created would have, under normal circumstances, increased the risk to Shaw's ankle because it meant he was almost bound to go over the top of the ball.

Instead, his lower leg makes contact with the ball, whereupon his trailing leg catches Shaw and instantly spawns several gruesome and gratuitous clips.

In the desperation to paint him as villain, there were headlines which claimed that he apologised for the tackle on Shaw, when he did nothing of the sort. He was sorry that Shaw had suffered the injury, obviously, but there was no apology for the tackle itself.

"I just feel really bad because I was involved in the accident. I feel really sorry," said Moreno. "I think it was not a foul, I think I played the ball, but in this kind of situation I don't care if it was a foul, I feel bad for him, for his family."

As is his wont, Roy Keane garnered headlines for describing the tackle as "brilliant", which is what just about everybody would have said had Shaw's foot been on the way up instead of being planted in the ground. Shaw would have gone flying through the air in the same way that he sent Hibbert and Willian last season, dusted himself down and continued his fine form.

Keane's choice of words might have been a little peculiar given the seriousness of Shaw's injury but all he did was judge the tackle itself in isolation. The difference is that most people are judging it in the context of the injury.


As well as excessive force, the other accusation levelled at Moreno was that he was reckless or not fully in control but, like with the trailing leg, that is an unavoidable part of almost every sliding tackle.

The only reason a player will slide is because they are out of position in the first place or, as was the case with Shaw, play has developed so quickly that it would be impossible to cover the area without sliding.

If the rules of the game were being drawn up today, there's a good chance that players going off their feet to tackle at all would be banned given the risks posed to such a vulnerable part of an opponent's body when a hurtling, blunt force of around 80kg crashes into a prone lower leg.

While they were banning that, they could also outlaw heading the ball for fear of brain damage and ensure uncontested jumping in case a stray elbow could break somebody's nose, cheekbone or jaw.

The reality is that these sort of accidents happen in a match and to make it completely safe would make it completely sterile where you might as well watch a bunch of lads play 'heads-and-volleys' on the road.

Shaw was incredibly unfortunate but will hopefully return safe in the knowledge that such incidents are relatively rare, given the number of similar tackles that occur in every game at every level. If he puts a few opponents into the air with a tackle when he returns, he might at least have been through enough to be spared the inevitable outrage.

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