Wayne Rooney has backed his former Everton teammate Jordan Pickford over the ‘unfortunate’ and ‘accidental’ challenge on Virgil van Dijk, which has left the Liverpool defender with a serious knee injury.
Pickford’s high lunge at the Dutchman caused a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which will keep Van Dijk out for at least six months.
The Everton goalkeeper avoided any punishment for the dreadful challenge, despite the consensus opinion being that he should have been shown a red card.
Rooney, who played with Pickford during his second spell at Everton, feels that the ‘keeper should have been sent off, but it was not an intentional assault and just came about from a positional mistake.
The former Manchester United striker feels Pickford needs to be a calmer presence in goal for the Toffees, which would prevent similar things happening in the future.
‘The one little bit of advice I’d give Jordan is just calm yourself down,’ Rooney wrote in his Sunday Times column. ‘Take some time.
‘With him, everything seems to be on a knife-edge, even to the point that when he’s kicking it long it looks like he’s kicking it as hard as he can — there was an instance, versus Liverpool, where he kicked it and nearly fell over afterwards.
‘He has to deal with the fall out over Virgil van Dijk’s injury. I think it was just unfortunate — Jordan got his positioning wrong and raced out quickly to try and block the shot, catching Van Dijk.
‘It looked accidental — though it should have been a red card.’
Pickford started for Everton against Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon and Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was asked about the challenge, with the Austrian believing the ‘absolutely disastrous’ tackle should have been a red card.
‘I think yes,’ said the Southampton boss. ‘I also had a discussion about this. It was a horrible tackle to be honest.
‘We have more often the situation now that the game goes on, although it is offside, and then some duels happen that don’t have to happen normally, this is an issue.
‘But sure, you cannot go like this into a duel. This is an absolutely disastrous tackle to be honest.
‘I think sure, it can be a red card in the end. When you only see the tackle, [it] was horrible, yes.’