PAUL POGBA apologised for his handball howler that left Manchester United’s Champions League hopes hanging in the balance.
The £89million French midfielder gave away a penalty when he handled a shot from Declan Rice in the 1-1 draw with West Ham.
Former United star Gary Neville called it “rubbish and embarrassing” that he did not take the ball in his face.
Old Trafford boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “Paul held his hands up knowing he should have taken it in the mush.
“But it came flying at him at 100 miles an hour. It was a natural reaction.”
It means Solskjaer’s men must avoid defeat at Leicester on Sunday to clinch a Champions League spot.
Pogba was blasted by Neville who said: “You don’t do that.
“Duck out of the way if you want — but you can’t put your arms up.”
Pogba’s fellow Frenchman Patrice Evra said: “Paul knows he made a big mistake. All United fans would want to see Paul Pogba bleeding.
“Even if the ball broke his nose! It’s difficult to defend Paul on this one.”
United skipper Harry Maguire said Pogba, 27, had apologised to his team-mate in the dressing room afterwards.
The England defender said: “He should probably take one in the face. He’s apologised in there. Held his hands up.”
At least Mason Greenwood spared his blushes by thumping home an equaliser after the break.
Solskjaer said: “We’ve given ourselves a fantastic opportunity for Sunday.
“We have gone out in two semis this season, so now we’ve got a ‘final’ and have to embrace it.”
Solskjaer stuck by David De Gea despite his horror show against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday.
And the goalkeeper rewarded his faith by making a smart save late on to deny Jarrod Bowen.
The United boss said: “David showed why we keep him in that goal. It was a great save. I knew he’d be focused.”
Boss David Moyes saw West Ham confirm their survival with this point.
He said: “I think there’s a great opportunity to improve this club.”
After Chelsea’s 5-3 defeat at Liverpool, United head into the final day against fifth-placed Leicester in third, a point ahead of their opponents.
And they know they will secure a top four finish if they avoid defeat against the Foxes.