Manchester United could hardly have endured a more disastrous start on their return to the UEFA Champions League this week.
Losing 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday evening was bad enough, but the big news out of Tuesday night’s group clash was the horrific injury sustained by Luke Shaw.
United’s star full-back will be out for at least six months after PSV midfielder Hector Moreno broke his leg with a desperate lunging tackle.
To add insult to injury, Moreno somehow avoided a red card and went on to net the equalising goal in first-half stoppage time.
The ugly incident got us thinking about where it ranks among the worst of the worst, so we’ve trawled through the archives and come up with our top 10 most horrific tackles and injuries in football.
Be warned: the footage for some of these shockers is not for the faint of heart.
Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park
Let us kick things off (pun fully intended) with one of the most infamous (and memorable) incidents in English Premier League history.
Eric Cantona ranks among Manchester United’s greatest ever players, having won four EPL titles, two FA Cups and three Charity Shields during his five years at Old Trafford.
But for all his achievements, the enigmatic Frenchman is best remembered for a moment of utter madness during a dirty day at Selhurst Park in 1995.
Cantona saw red for a petulant foul on Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw, but worse was to come as he made his way towards the dressing room.
Having had quite enough of the abuse being hurled at him from the Palace fans, the one they called ‘King Eric’ launched over the fence with a bizarre kung-fu kick and a flurry of punches aimed at a particularly rowdy heckler.
The incident saw Cantona convicted of assault and banned from all football for eight months.
He was also axed as captain of the France national team, signalling an abrupt end to his international career.
Roy Keane takes aim at Alfe-Inge Haaland
‘Keano’ was never a subtle player – a Man United legend, to be sure, but a player who revelled in the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
But while some laud the Irishman as one of the last great hard-men of football, others remember him in a rather more sinister light.
His ‘challenge’ on Alfe-Inge Haaland remains the first point of reference for those in the latter camp.
Keane came into the Manchester derby of 2001 with a score to settle, having injured his own ACL while attempting to foul Haaland – then a Leeds United player – back in 1997.
With the game winding down, United captain launched at Haaland with a vicious studs-up tackle aimed directly at the Manchester City man’s right knee.
Keane was sent off and banned for three matches, but it didn’t quite end there.
He later said in an autobiography that the attack on Haaland was deliberate and premeditated – a revelation which resulted in a further five-match suspension and a £150,000 fine.
Kevin Muscat takes out Melbourne Heart’s Adrian Zahra
As a gritty defender with more balls than ability, Kevin Muscat got into his fair share of scrapes over the years.
The Australian was roundly despised by opposition players during his time in the United Kingdom with Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Rangers and Millwall.
But perhaps the most awful among his many indiscretions over the years came in the twilight of his career, as captain of Melbourne Victory in the newly-formed A-League.
With the scores level at 2-2 in a tense Melbourne derby, Muscat just about caused a riot with an outrageously mistimed tackle on Adrian Zahra.
The Victory skipper was promptly dismissed, having only just returned from suspension.
Yours truly saw this one in the flesh and can confidently say that it looked every bit as bad in real time.
Schumacher puts Battiston into a coma at the 1982 World Cup
The tantalising semifinal clash between France and West Germany at the 1982 FIFA World Cup is not remembered for the football.
Rather, it lives in infamy for one of the most shocking acts of violence ever witnessed in the beautiful game.
With the match tied at 1-1, Michel Platini sent a gorgeous through-ball over the top of the German back line and into the path of Patrick Battiston.
The French defender was one-on-one with Harald Schumacher, but the goalkeeper had no interest in playing the ball.
Battiston was knocked out cold, losing three of his teeth and later falling into a coma.
And yet, quite remarkably, there was no punishment for Schumacher, who proceeded to take his goal kick as though nothing had happened.
Indeed, not only did referee Charles Corver fail to issue a booking – he didn’t even award a free kick.
Siegmann cuts Ewald Lienen’s thigh to the bone
Former Greece coach Otto Rehhagel is well known for his somewhat agricultural approach to the game.
But one of his charges took that ethos to the extreme during Werder Bremen’s Bundesliga clash with Arminia Bielefeld in August 1981.
Having been urged play tough and rough, Bremen defender Norbert Siegmann launched into an awful tackle on Arminia’s Ewald Lienen.
The result was utterly appalling.
Siegmann’s studs ripped a 25 centimetre gash in Lienen’s thigh, leaving the bone exposed and a mass of horrified players, staff and spectators.
The victim left no doubt as to where he laid the blame, making a beeline for Rehhagel even while medics attempted to tend to his gaping wound.
Quite remarkably, Lienen resumed training just two and a half weeks (and 23 stitches) later.
Eduardo’s horrific leg break at Birmingham
This is one is still pretty fresh in the memory of Premier League followers.
Early on in Arsenal’s EPL clash at St. Andrews in February 2008, Eduardo da Silva turned on the ball in midfield and looked to pick a path through the Birmingham City defence.
His quick feet were too much for City defender Martin Taylor, who lashed out with a late challenge that earned him a red card.
But it soon became apparent that Taylor’s challenge was much more dangerous than initially suspected.
In fact, so distressing was the nature of Eduardo’s injury that Sky Sports refused to broadcast any close-up replays of the incident.
We therefore urge particular caution with the video below – it’s a real shocker, folks.
De Jong’s fly kick on Xabi Alonso at World Cup 2010
While Nigel de Jong is a hardworking midfielder of some repute, he’s been known to get a little overzealous in the challenge on occasion.
But the Dutchman outdid himself during the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, channeling the energies of Cantona and Schumacher to commit one of the all-time great football fouls.
Rather than attempting a header or conceding the aerial contest, de Jong instead plumped for Option C: a fly-kick to the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso.
The best part? In an ill-tempered game which featured no less than four red cards, this wasn’t one of them.
De Jong received only a yellow ticket for his insane recklessness, but Alonso would have the last laugh as Spain ran out 1-0 winners in extra time to claim their first World Cup title.
Pepe’s crazy kick on Javier Casquero
Real Madrid defender Pepe has a decidedly unflattering disciplinary record, to say the least.
But the hot-headed Portugal international was at his absolute worst during the Galacticos’ fixture with Getafe back in 2009.
With the match finely balanced at 2-2 in the dying minutes, Pepe brought down Javier Casquero to concede a blatant (and potentially match-winning) penalty.
But it’s what happened next that gets him on this list.
The Brazilian-born stopper kicked Casquero twice as he lay on the turf, before stamping on the Getafe midfielder repeatedly and punching Juan Angel Albin in the ensuing brawl.
He was sent off, unsurprisingly, and later received a 10-match ban.
Lee Bowyer stomps on Gerardo’s face
There are a few serial offenders on this list, but Lee Bowyer’s track record takes some beating.
This is a man who was famously sent off for brawling with Kieron Dyer – his own teammate – during his days at Newcastle United.
But for sheer malice, it’s hard to look past Bowyer’s actions during a UEFA Cup tie in 2003.
With Leeds United headed towards defeat, he tripped up Malaga’s Gerardo from behind to earn himself a typically unnecessary booking.
Most people would have left it there – but not Mr Bowyer, who instead opted to drive his studs into his stricken opponent’s face.
The referee and the pundits might have given him the benefit of the doubt, but the powers that be took a rather different view.
The one-time England midfielder was later handed a six-match ban by UEFA, who described the incident as “an act of serious assault”.
Pedro Mendes meets Ben Thatcher’s elbow
Is there an unluckier guy in football than Pedro Mendes?
The Portuguese midfielder’s time in England was littered with outrageous misfortune – bad tackles, freak injuries, wrongly denied goals (read Roy Carroll’s infamous goal-line blunder for Manchester United).
But his scariest moment came after a collision with Manchester City thug Ben Thatcher in 2006.
Chasing a clearance towards the sidelines, Mendes was sent sprawling into the fence as the City defender came through at full speed with a raised elbow.
Quite how Thatcher – a renowned cheap-shot artist – escaped a red card is beyond us, but he was later handed a lengthy ban by the FA.
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