Premier League referee Michael Oliver said he should have given more thought to Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s wild tackle on Virgil van Dijk that left the Liverpool defender needing knee surgery instead of focusing on whether to award a penalty.
Pickford’s reckless challenge, in a match between the Merseyside rivals in October, was made inside the penalty area but came after the referee had blown for offside.
The England goalkeeper was not cautioned for the tackle and retrospective action after the Football Association determined the incident was seen at the time by the match officials, including the video assistant referee (VAR).
“The thought initially was, ‘it can’t be a penalty because it’s offside so we need to check the offside first’. I said to the VAR, ‘if it’s not offside I’m going to give a penalty’. I’ve watched it back so many times,” Oliver told the Daily Mail.
“… We’ve all, myself included, not thought about the challenge as much as should have done. We could still have given offside and sent Pickford off.
“We got sucked too much into going step by step as opposed to thinking of the bigger process, which was considering the challenge as well and not just the fact it can’t be a penalty.”
League leaders Liverpool’s three main centre backs — Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip — are all sidelined with injuries. They next face Manchester United in the league on Sunday.
Meanwhile Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes to have midfielder Paul Pogba and defenders Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw back from injury for their Premier League game against Liverpool on Sunday.
The trio missed the FA Cup third-round win over Watford at the weekend and are doubtful for Tuesday’s league game at Burnley. Solskjaer’s side have 33 points from 16 games and will move above leaders Liverpool if they avoid defeat at Turf Moor.
Asked in a news conference if the three players can be ready for Burnley and Liverpool, Solskjaer said: “I hope so, I hope all of them for Liverpool, definitely. “I’m not sure if they’ll make the Burnley one.”
United have won eight and drawn two of their last 10 matches to close in on champions Liverpool.