Blades boss Chris Wilder ‘drained’ and ‘saddened’ by VAR

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has criticised VAR insisting he is “drained” and “saddened” by the technology following one of its more bizarre decisions on Thursday night.

Newcastle were already leading at Bramall Lane courtesy of Allan Saint-Maximin’s early header, before some intelligent play from Jonjo Shelvey saw the visitors double their lead midway through the second half.

Paul Dummett’s long ball forward was flicked on by Andy Carroll and Shelvey found himself clean through on goal after making a run from deep.

The linesman put up his flag and the Blades defenders totally stopped playing, believing the Newcastle midfielder to be offside, while goalkeeper Dean Henderson made no attempt to save the ball as Shelvey fired into the back of the net, knowing the goal would be checked.

It was a very tight decision but Carroll was inches onside and the goal stood to seal a 2-0 victory for the Magpies.

Asked about the incident post-match, a clearly frustrated Wilder said: “It sucked the life out of my players, but more importantly it sucked the life out of 30,000 Sheffield United fans.

“It (VAR) is becoming too difficult for everyone. I don’t think anyone knows where they are with it. The game has changed, it’s a new game. What we are having to deal with, we’re having to learn on the job.

“Every interview that I do post-game is VAR-based, the majority of the time it is. I’m drained with it, if I’m honest. We are learning a different game and I am a bit saddened by it.

“It’s every week and I don’t think anyone knows where we are with it with any decision. One week one is given then the next the same thing isn’t given.

“We were told at the start of the season, the linesman will not put his flag up. He put his flag up. Everyone stopped. I have looked back at it and Jonjo Shelvey nonchalantly went up and put it away, I didn’t get the impression that he thought he was in and one-on-one with Dean (Henderson). It was a token finish.

“The game has changed in a heartbeat and it is a difficult one to learn, nobody knows what to do. I’m all over the place with it.

“Being critical of my players, they should have played right until the end. And we do need to learn from it. But the linesman needs to learn to keep his flag down. If I’m a defender and the flag goes up and you see it, you stop. That’s a natural reaction.

“But as I said, it’s a different game now and one that we all have to adapt and get used to, but I’m not enjoying adapting and getting used to it.”

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce sympathised with his good friend Wilder but believes that ultimately the right decision was made.

He said: “Down the line we are going to have one of those as well, I’m sure. So I can imagine how Chris is. However, I have to say the decision was right.

“Well done to the referee for not blowing his whistle and also Jonjo, because the directive at the start of the season was to play until you hear the whistle. What needs improving is why does the linesman need to put his flag up?

“When something is as close as that was, for me the linesman has created the confusion. Every goal is checked by VAR so if he had just kept his flag down for a split second and just let the play run through…

“It’s the manner of it, everyone just seemed to stop didn’t they? We’ve got one tonight and we are obviously pleased but I can understand that Chrissy won’t be.”