CRAIG Pawson will take charge of Manchester United’s Premier League clash with Arsenal at Old Trafford this weekend.
The 36-year-old Fifa referee, from South Yorkshire, will be in the middle for Sunday’s encounter between the two English football heavyweights (KO 14:05 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by linesmen Lee Betts (Norfolk) and Marc Perry (West Midlands), while Mike Dean – who handled last season’s corresponding fixture – is the fourth official.
This is arguably the biggest top-flight game that Pawson, a Select Group official since 2013, has officiated to date.
The Sheffield-based whistler will also be on fourth official duties next week for Sunderland v Crystal Palace on Tuesday and Liverpool’s Capital One Cup final re-match with Manchester City at Anfield on Wednesday.
Pawson has officiated 33 games in all competitions this term – including 19 in the Premier League, six in the Europa League, three FA Cup ties and three televised Championship matches.
He has brandished 84 yellow cards, awarded three penalties and sent off three players – with two of the three red cards coming in his last three games, for Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson.
Pawson handled Arsenal’s 5-2 win at Leicester in September and goalless draw at Stoke in January, while it will be his second visit to the Theatre of Dreams this term after United’s goalless draw with Newcastle in August.
He will hope for a similarly easy game to Anthony Taylor, who handled Arsenal’s 3-0 win over United at the Emirates back in October in which the Gunners scored all three goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Pawson has impressed during a rapid rise since being promoted to the Select Group at the start of 2013-14 season after proving his ability in five seasons in the Football League, the 2012 League One play-off final and a trial Premier League game in March 2013.
The highly-rated official recently oversaw his 50th top-flight match in West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City at Upton Park – in which he awarded City a penalty and booked Martin Demichelis for a foul many thought deserved red for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
Pawson was also recognised for his progress in January 2015 by being elevated on to Fifa status – one of seven English officials currently on the international list.
Last season, he was fourth official for both the Capital One Cup and FA Cup Finals at Wembley, and flew to Singapore last summer with Jon Moss to referee at the Barclays Asia Trophy and educate Asian officials.
Pawson is also set to be part of either Martin Atkinson or Mark Clattenburg’s team of officials at Euro 2016 in France this summer.
Before Sunday’s game, he will be an additional assistant referee for the Champions League last-16 first leg match between Juventus and Bayern Munich in Turin on Tuesday night.
United head into the weekend fifth in the table, 10 points behind third-placed Arsenal, who are two points adrift of leaders Leicester City with 12 league games to play.