The Dutch centre-back had to be substituted inside the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s Merseyside derby after Pickford rushed off his line and jumped with both feet off the ground into Van Dijk’s standing leg, with the defender’s scream reverberating around Goodison Park.
Play was immediately stopped for a marginal offside call, with Van Dijk’s arm just beyond the foot of the last Everton defender, and no punishment was awarded to Pickford.
Although VAR looked at the incident, the offside cancelled out serious foul play – which is what Pickford’s challenge was classed as.
Had it been violent conduct – which is when one player hits another, for example – VAR could still have intervened despite the offside, but instead the passage of play was rendered null and void.
To add to the drama of the decision, last season Van Dijk would have been onside but the handball rule change meant he was offside by centimetres.
Had Van Dijk been onside, Pickford would have been shown a red card and a penalty awarded.
Speaking about the incident, Steve McManaman said on commentary for BT Sport: ‘He could have easily been sent off for this challenge, I’m very surprised that it’s all just been forgotten about in the offside situation.
‘Because when you look at the challenge itself, I know it’s from a goalkeeper and you don’t expect it, but if that was in the centre of the park it would be a red card.
‘I don’t advocate getting players sent off, certainly early on in a game of this magnitude, but the fact that it’s just been brushed over by the referee and VAR is absolutely astounding for me. It was an awful challenge.’