MARK Clattenburg has been confirmed as the man in the middle for Sunday’s hotly-anticipated Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
The 40-year-old from County Durham has been assigned to the second Premier League meeting of the season between the two fierce rivals, who are both chasing a top-four finish (KO 4pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Fifa linesmen Jake Collin (Merseyside) and Simon Beck (Bedfordshire) while the fourth official will be Jon Moss (West Yorkshire).
It will only be Clattenburg’s second Manchester derby after his handling of City’s famous 6-1 victory at Old Trafford in October 2011 in which he correctly sent off United defender Jonny Evans early in the second half.
He was also the fourth official for Manchester United’s last Premier League win over City – at the Etihad Stadium in December 2012.
The appointment also means the Gosforth-based whistler will have officiated City’s away matches at Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United this season.
It will be a second visit to the Theatre of Dreams in the space of a month for Clattenburg, who oversaw United’s 3-0 win over Tottenham on March 15.
Overall, the trained electrician has taken charge of 37 games in all competitions so far this term, brandishing 145 yellow cards and four red cards – three of which were to either City or United players.
Clattenburg won’t be in the good books of City skipper Vincent Kompany after dismissing the centre-back while he was on international duty for Belgium last week in their Euro 2016 qualifer against Israel in Jerusalem.
He also sent off United’s Tyler Blackett in their 5-3 defeat at Leicester in September and fellow defender Luke Shaw in the 1-1 draw at West Ham in February.
Clattenburg – who is a favourite to officiate this season’s FA Cup Final – has sent off three United players in his last five United games and awarded five penalties to the opposition during that time.
Among his other high-profile games this term include the Uefa Super Cup between Real Madrid and Sevilla in August, a Capital One Cup quarter-final, the top-two Championship clash between Bournemouth and Derby and four Champions League matches.
Last term, Clattenburg oversaw the potential title-decider between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield, a Champions League quarter-final tie, Europa League semi-final second leg and a Championship play-off semi-final second leg.
The last two Manchester derbies have been refereed by one of Clattenburg’s best friends Michael Oliver – including City’s 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium back in November in which he sent off United defender Chris Smalling and turned down several City penalty appeals.
It was widely expected among refereeing circles that Mike Dean – who was in charge of last weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby – would be chosen.
Although in only his second selection since being handed the responsibility to appoint Select Group referees to Premier League games, PGMOL technical director Howard Webb has opted for Clattenburg – who is regarded as one of the fitter and more talkative officials.
He has handled over 200 Premier League matches since his promotion to the Select Group in 2004 but was suspended in 2008 for eight months for breaching his contract in relation to personal business deals.
Earlier this season, Clattenburg was seemingly out of favour for a while after being dropped for one weekend for travelling back to Newcastle alone following a game to attend an Ed Sheeran concert and call then-Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock without the other officials being present.
It led to speculation about why he had been cast into the wilderness – especially when the standards of officiating were criticised over the festive period.
Despite dividing opinion with his often erratic and over-expressive style, Clattenburg is highly regarded on the domestic, European and international scene with regular appointments in the Champions League and Europa League.
He was also in the middle for this season’s Uefa Super Cup and is the leading contender to be England’s representatives for Euro 2016 in France and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Given the nature of the occasion, fans of both sides have their own views on the choice of referee with United supporters in particular condemning Clattenburg’s appointment.
Here are some from social media…