Martin Smith: Blades (and VAR officials) really need to sharpen up

In this Loony-tunes start to the Premier League there is at least one alarming consistency.

Monday, 19th October 2020, 1:31 pm
Billy Sharp equalises from the spot against Fulham. Photo by GARETH COPLEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sheffield United missing chances.

They generally appear to be playing about as well as they did last season when they shocked football’s elite with their tactical innovation, flair and fluidity.

Watching them on TV it seems most of those qualities still mostly apply.

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They just can’t find the net.

No wins in five is a poor start by anybody’s standards, especially Chris Wilder’s in his time at Bramall Lane. Sunday’s equaliser against Fulham has to be a turning point.

After five games last season United had scored five and conceded six. This time it’s two for, seven against.

The spirit of the United players and their belief in their coach is rightly undiminished.

The manager can’t score goals for them but his tactics and selections are creating opportunities.

The rest is down to the players.

*It’s all been said before but it’s not going away.

How can a VAR system award a practically fictional offside decision against Liverpool to deny a last minute goal in the Merseyside derby having already missed an assault by Jordan Pickford on Virgil Van Dijk?

The fact the Liverpool defender might be out for the rest of the season is almost irrelevant but the extent of his injury is evidence of the trauma suffered from Pickford’s horrible challenge.

The England keeper was clearly trying to block or charge-down Van Dijk’s potential shot but got it recklessly wrong.

Clearly a red card on real-time viewing let alone with the benefit of VAR at Stockley Park - which still sounds like a top-secret intelligence centre from an episode of Doctor Who.

And it might as well have been for all the use it was in administering justice and fair play on Saturday.

Sadio Mane was given offside by the thickness of his shirt before Jordan Henderson scored what would have been the winner.

VAR is making fools of referees, fans and players and needs to be reformed.

Remember Sheffield United’s ‘goal’ at Villa last season?

We need technology to help referees not just to trip them up.

All genuine football fans will wish the superb Van Dijk a speedy recovery and hope that the first visitor to the Dutch captain’s hospital bedside on Saturday night was Jordan Pickford.

We also need to be a lot sharper at Stockley Park, it might be the Daleks next.