REFEREE Michael Oliver will take charge of the eagerly-anticipated Manchester derby between rivals City and United this weekend.
The 29-year-old Northumberland official has been selected to keep the players in check at the Etihad Stadium during Sunday’s Premier League clash (KO 13:30 BST).
He will be assisted by linesmen Stuart Burt, from Northamptonshire, and Stephen Child of Kent while Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) has been assigned to fourth official duties.
Oliver was the man in the middle when the sides last met in March as City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Old Trafford on their way to claiming a second title in three years.
The Fifa whistler, who regularly officiates international and Europa League matches, was also the fourth official when City thumped then defending champions United 4-1 in the corresponding fixture last term.
He has already officiated two matches involving City this term – both in August, against Arsenal in the Community Shield and Liverpool in the Premier League – but it is the first time he will encounter United in 2014-15.
Oliver even trended on Twitter earlier this month after awarding two controversial penalties, one for either side, in Stoke’s 2-1 victory over Swansea on 19 October.
Additionally, he was criticised for booking Chelsea striker Diego Costa for an alleged dive in their opening weekend win at Burnley and Tottenham winger Nacer Chadli for taunting the Arsenal fans after scoring in last month’s north London derby.
The youngest of the 17 Select Group referees has given out 40 yellow cards and awarded six penalties in 10 matches in all competitions so far this term but is yet to send a player off.
Oliver – inspired to take up the whistle by his father Clive, who is a retired Football League referee – quickly established himself as an accomplished top-flight official with a confident and assured but less flamboyant approach.
He has embarked on a remarkable rise, becoming the Premier League’s youngest ever official in August 2010 after three successful years in the Football League and four seasons progressing through the non-league pyramid.
Oliver is now regarded as one of England’s leading officials and, following the retirement of Howard Webb after the World Cup in Brazil, has been tipped to represent the country at the 2018 tournament in Russia.
United currently sit eighth in the table, three points adrift of fourth place, while City in third sit six points behind current leaders Chelsea.