Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said the Premier League might start to resemble rugby rather than football regarding fouls if referees continue to show leniency after his side drew 1-1 at Southampton on Sunday.
Mason Greenwood levelled for United after the break although Southampton had the best opportunities to win.
“It’s a foul, he [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,” Solskjaer told a news conference.
“I like the more lenient way, it’s more men’s football, but, still, that’s a foul.”
Officials in England‘s top flight have been encouraged to have a higher threshold for fouls this season, with referees’ chief Mike Riley saying earlier this month that the changes were designed to “allow the Premier League game to flow.”
“I thought it was a foul but it’s the referee’s [Craig Pawson’s] decision at the end of the day and we can’t dwell on it,” said United forward Greenwood.
“I understand they’re going to let more challenges go so the game keeps flowing, which is a good idea, but if there’s a foul there’s a foul.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhuettl said he welcomed the approach, adding that English football used to be renowned for its end-to-end style.
“I was always a big fan of letting the game run a little bit more. This is why I liked English football to be honest. This is why the English football is different to other leagues because of this situation,” he said.
“It is a pity, we also had a few chances after the equaliser to win the game, but a fantastic performance from our side,” he said. “We changed the shape completely in the second half and I have not seen so many chances for Manchester United. The important thing is the first point of the season and absolutely deserved.”
Solskjaer added: “It’s a game that they can win, we can win.
“We could have and should have scored a few. When they scored we lost our heads a bit. After halftime we were good again until we scored, and then in the last 15-20 we lost momentum and lost our shape.”