MIKE Dean has been appointed as the referee for Chelsea’s eagerly-awaited encounter with Manchester United this weekend.
The 46-year-old will be in charge as the Premier League leaders host third-placed United in Saturday’s televised teatime kick-off (KO 5:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Fifa linesmen Simon Long from Suffolk and Darren England while the fourth official will be fellow South Yorkshireman Craig Pawson.
It will be the first time Dean will oversee a fixture between the sides at Stamford Bridge with his previous two coming at Old Trafford in 2007 and 2010.
The first coincided with a managerial debut for then Chelsea boss Avram Grant in which Dean sent off Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel for a two-footed tackle before awarding United a late penalty which Louis Saha converted in a 2-0 win.
The second was regarded as a winner-takes-all bout in the title race as Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea claimed a 2-1 victory with an offside Didier Drogba scoring the winner before Federico Macheda netted a consolation for United despite appearing to handle prior to bundling the ball home.
It will be his first trip to West London in a month when handling Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in mid-March.
Dean’s decision to award Saints a first-half penalty when Dusan Tadic went down under the challenge of Nemanja Matic was questioned by some – most notably Jose Mourinho.
It will only be his third trip to the Bridge since being sarcastically ‘congratulated’ by the Blues manager a year ago when his unbeaten home record was ended by a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland.
Dean incurred the wrath of Mourinho after the home defeat to the Black Cats in the latter stages of last season following his award of a spotkick to the visitors and subsequent dismissal of Blues assistant coach Rui Faria to the stands.
Following the match, Mourinho spoke of Dean: “I think his performance was unbelievable and I think when referees have unbelievable performances, I think it’s fair that as managers we give them praise.
“So, fantastic performance. He came here with one objective. To make a fantastic performance. And he did that.”
Dean lived up to his reputation for being occasionally card-happy when handling Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at title rivals Manchester City back in September – issuing seven yellow cards including six in the first half and sending off Pablo Zabaleta for a second bookable offence after the break.
The Wirral-based whistler has officiated United three times this term – against Swansea on the opening weekend, West Bromwich Albion in October and their clash with Arsenal at the Emirates back in November.
Overall, he has overseen 31 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing an above-average 140 yellows, dismissing six players and awarding four penalties (all of them in the Premier League).
The Heswell referee did well to keep a lid on the highly-charged Tyne Wear derby between Sunderland and Newcastle at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago but gave what many thought was an inconsistent display in Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Burnley last Saturday.
It was largely anticipated that Dean would be chosen for last weekend’s Manchester derby but his first United game of 2015 will instead come in what has notoriously been a decisive fixture which has been littered with controversy in recent years.
Two seasons ago, Mark Clattenburg was accused – and later cleared – of using racial language towards Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel during a 3-2 win for United which saw Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic dubiously sent off for the Blues.
Many of the recent contests have been refereed by the now-retired Howard Webb and Phil Dowd, who has overseen the last two including the corresponding fixture last term in which he sent off United defender Nemanja Vidic.
With his ability to draw on a wealth of experience at the highest level, Dean is regularly considered to officiate these sorts of occasions and is still regarded as one of the top referees in England in a similar bracket as Clattenburg, Michael Oliver and Martin Atkinson.
Among the Premier League’s oldest officials along with Chris Foy and Phil Dowd, he has overseen over 350 top-flight games since promotion from the Football League in 2000 and spent a decade on the Fifa list until retiring from the position in 2013.
Dean has long since completed the domestic set of stellar appointments in his career including the 2004 FA Community Shield, both the 2006 and 2009 Championship play-off finals, the 2008 FA Cup final and the 2011 League Cup final.
United are chasing a seventh straight league win – and a first against Chelsea since October 2012 – with victory guaranteed to take them above Arsenal into second with the Gunners in FA Cup semi-final action.
The Blues, meanwhile, can take a step closer to their first title in five years and head into the weekend with a seven-point lead as they seek a fourth straight victory.