Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urged referees to “protect” players after Leroy Sane was injured during the FA Cup win at Cardiff City.
Guardiola’s side eased to a 2-0 win over the Championship club to reach the fifth round as Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling struck.
But Guardiola confirmed Sane could miss up to a month after Joe Bennett’s foul.
“For football in general players are the artists. The only thing they can do is protect them,” said Guardiola.
“Referees have to protect – not just mine, all players. Sane will be out for a while. Maybe two or three weeks, or a month, we will see tomorrow. It’s his ankle.
“I know my players, because it’s not just one, there was many. They decided to play in that way. There is one man who has to decide what is correct and what is incorrect. If he doesn’t anything can happen.”
Later on Sunday, Bennett apologised for the tackle with a statement on social media.
“Just want to apologise to Leroy Sane for my tackle today,” he said. “I tried to stop the counter-attack and completely mistimed my attempt.
“I didn’t mean to catch him like I did. I hope it’s nothing serious and he recovers quickly.”
Sane could miss Premier League games against West Bromwich Albion, Burnley and Leicester, and is now a doubt for City’s Champions League last-16 first-leg in Basel on 13 February.
The foul on Sane arrived late in the first half, when the Germany international ran at pace from his own half to almost reach the Cardiff penalty area.
At first glance, the impact of Bennett’s challenge was not clear but television replays showed the severity of the tackle, which forced Sane off at half-time.
Bennett was later sent off for a second yellow card after a challenge on Brahim Diaz but his foul on Sane drew scrutiny, with Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer describing it as “nasty and high”, and BBC Radio 5 live’s Robbie Savage labelling the tackle “terrible”.
Germany’s official Twitter account contacted Cardiff shortly after the foul, urging Neil Warnock’s side not to “hurt” their international players – though the tweet was later deleted. In all, the Bluebirds committed 14 fouls in the 90 minutes, two more than the Premier League leaders.
‘Quadruple is impossible’
Manchester City have now only lost twice in 36 games in all competitions and never looked in danger of defeat in the Welsh capital, where they had 77% of possession.
Guardiola’s side will be in Monday’s FA Cup fifth-round draw during The One Show on BBC One at 19:00 GMT but not for the first time this season, Guardiola was quick to talk down their chances of an unprecedented quadruple of the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup trophies.
City reached the Carabao Cup final during midweek, remain in the Champions League and hold a 12-point lead over Manchester United at the top of the league.
But asked about the chances of a clean sweep of trophies, Guardiola said: “No. They asked me if we would be invincible in the Premier League and I said no. I do not have enough players, I have players out injured. It is impossible.”
The former Barcelona boss also linked his frustrations with how referees protect players with their quadruple chances, adding: “When you say ‘why didn’t you win four titles?’ I will say ‘I need the players to win four titles’.”