Ref’s bizarre take on Sheffield United penalty v Man Utd after Harry Maguire’s James McAtee foul

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Blades fans left wondering why their side didn’t get second penalty after Maguire’s challenge on McAtee

Sheffield United supporters were left scratching their heads after being denied a second penalty at home to Manchester United on Saturday evening. The Blades dragged themselves back on level terms from the spot after Scott McTominay, who had put the visitors ahead, handled James McAtee’s cross inside the box.

Oli McBurnie dispatched the resulting penalty and United looked good value for a point against their illustrious namesakes, until defender Diego Dalot stepped up to smash a shot into the top corner from 25 yards. The departure of McBurnie to a groin injury was a big blow for the Blades but the game almost changed again just moments after he went off, when his replacement Rhian Brewster smashed a shot goalwards from long-range.

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It swerved and moved in the air, forcing André Onana to worriedly palm it away, and as he looked to head home the follow-up the diminutive McAtee was eased out of the way by former Blades defender Maguire. There were vociferous appeals for a penalty at the time but on-field referee Michael Oliver waved them away, with the VAR backing his decision.

Oliver, widely regarded as one of the Premier League’s best referees, was backed on both counts by former colleague Dermot Gallagher, speaking to Sky’s Ref Watch programme. “He [Maguire] runs a risk but the referee eventually makes the decision of no penalty because the referee has a clear view,” Gallagher said.

“He’s eliminated the VAR because he has not made a clear and obvious error because the referee thinks it’s quite clearly not. Any challenge like that, you’ve got to get the ball. But the referee has the best view and because he eliminated the VAR and ‘cut the grass’, as we call it, the VAR has nowhere to go.”

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Despite Gallagher’s assertion, and Maguire indeed not winning the ball, the penalty was not given either on-field or by the VAR, who also bizarrely took an age to be confirmed by the VAR despite Oliver pointing to the spot almost immediately. The decision also looked clear as day in real-time, with the Scottish international’s left arm away from his body and blocking McAtee’s cross.

“What’s good about this is the referee gave it on field,” Gallagher added. “He’s very positive. VAR looked at it and backed the referee. His arm is extended. I went through the checklist and you might not like it, but it’s a penalty.”

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