ENGLAND’S leading referee Mark Clattenburg will take charge of his fifth Manchester derby when United host City this weekend.
The 41-year-old, from County Durham, will continue his outstanding year by being man in the middle as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola prepare to do battle in the Premier League for the first time on Saturday lunchtime (KO 12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
He will be ably assisted by Fifa linesmen Jake Collin (Merseyside) and Simon Bennett (Staffordshire), with the experienced Mike Dean (Wirral) set for fourth official duties.
It will be the fourth time Clattenburg oversees the derby at Old Trafford – and the third season in a row.
He oversaw last season’s disenchanting goalless draw and United’s 4-2 win in April 2015, as well as City’s famous 6-1 triumph in October 2011 – in which he dismissed Reds defender Jonny Evans for a last-man foul on James Milner.
Clattenburg’s only derby at the Etihad Stadium was his first back in August 2007, when City won an incident-free game 1-0 under Sven Goran Eriksson thanks to Geovanni’s stunning strike.
The appointment to arguably the season’s biggest game so far, which wasn’t roundly expected but has been widely accepted, is the latest in a memorable year for the Consett-born whistler.
He completed an unprecedented treble last season when officiating the finals of the FA Cup, Champions League and Euro 2016, and hit the headlines after revealing tattoos commemorating his appearances in the latter two.
The Newcastle United fan, who is a trained electrician by trade, got the logo of each competition tattooed on his arm in the Costa del Sol, and has so far this season kept his arms covered while refereeing in the Premier League.
Clattenburg has so far handled two top-flight games and the Champions League play-off tie between Luduogorets and Viktoria Plzen – brandishing 11 yellow cards and awarding one penalty but is yet to send a player off.
He had a quiet game as Chelsea beat Burnley 3-0 last time out but turned down two Leicester penalty appeals in their goalless draw with Arsenal on August 20, although Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri refused to criticise the calls and said the official had “a good game”.
Clattenburg didn’t have a game on the opening weekend as he enjoyed an extensive break following his exertions over the summer.
His wealth of experience of high-profile encounters also extends to refereeing the 2012 League Cup Final, 2012 Olympic men’s football gold medal match, 2013 Community Shield and 2014 Uefa Super Cup.
The Gosforth-based whistler has not encountered City since awarding a controversial penalty against Raheem Sterling for handball in their 2-1 home defeat by Tottenham on Valentine’s Day, after which he was criticised by then boss Manuel Pellegrini and demoted to fourth official duties the following week.
Clattenburg and his assistants, including Collin who will be on duty at Old Trafford, also came under fire in the reverse fixture as Spurs scored three offside goals in their 4-1 win at White Hart Lane last September.
Aside from October’s stalemate at United, he also controlled their 2-0 win over Watford at the Etihad in August, which passed without any major incidents.
Clattenburg also took charge of three other United league games – September’s 3-2 win at Southampton, a goalless draw at home to West Ham in December, and January’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
He was then given the honour of handling the FA Cup Final at Wembley in May, sending off United defender Chris Smalling for two bookable offences in their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace after extra time.
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.
Widely known for his informal communication with players on the pitch, his exemplary fitness and talkative approach will be vital in a crucial game which is likely to shape the title race in the week’s ahead.
One of the teams stand to lose their 100 per cent start to the league season – both have won their opening three games but United will be considered favourites by some as Sergio Aguero starts a three-match ban after being charged with elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid.
City, who are unbeaten on four of their last visits to Old Trafford, will be hoping to claim the bragging rights after Marcus Rashford scored the winner to give United a 1-0 victory in the previous derby in March – refereed by Michael Oliver at the Etihad.
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As expected, fans of both teams have had their say on the appointment of Clattenburg – and it’s fair to say the reaction has been mixed…
Craig Pawson has been assigned to Liverpool’s opening home game of the season against Leicester City in Saturday’s evening kick-off.
The South Yorkshire whistler, 37, will be in the middle as Anfield welcomes the champions for its first match since being re-developed over the summer (KO 17:30 BST, live on BT Sport).
It will be the second time he oversees the Foxes this term after their Community Shield defeat to Manchester United at Wembley last month.
He will be assisted on Merseyside by Harry Lennard (West Sussex) and Adrian Holmes (West Yorkshire), with Lee Mason (Lancashire) the fourth official.
Sheffield Wednesday fan Pawson will handle his third Premier League match of the campaign after West Brom’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace on the opening weekend and West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Bournemouth, in which he sent off Cherries midfielder Harry Arter for two bookable offences.
Last season, Christian Benteke scored the only goal of the corresponding fixture on Boxing Day for Liverpool – one of only three league defeats Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester suffered on their way to clinching the most unlikeliest of title triumphs.
Paul Tierney and Mike Jones will referee their first Premier League matches of the season in the fourth week of the campaign.
Lancashire’s Tierney, who is from Wigan, will take charge of Burnley’s game with fellow promoted side Hull City at Turf Moor on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
Cheshire-based Jones will be in the middle for Monday night’s clash between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light (KO 20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
It’s Tierney’s first top-flight match since being promoted to the Select Group along with Stuart Attwell in the summer – and only his sixth in total, having made his debut in Swansea’s 3-0 win over West Brom in August 2014.
The former hairdresser, who was fourth official for Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland on August 27, will oversee his fifth game in all competitions this term.
The 35-year-old will have linesmen Simon Beck (Bedfordshire) and Ian Hussin (Liverpool) to assist him, while Michael Oliver (Northumberland) shall be the fourth official.
Meanwhile, Jones has given red cards in both of his matches so far this season – Reading’s 2-2 Championship draw against Brighton and Morecambe’s 3-2 win at Lancashire rivals Accrington in League Two.
He was also fourth official in Manchester City’s victory over West Ham before the international break, and will fulfil the same role on Saturday for Middlesbrough against Crystal Palace at the Riverside Stadium.
The Chester-based whistler, 48, will be assisted by Mark Scholes (Buckinghamshire) and Darren Cann (Norfolk), with Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire) on fourth official duties.
You can see a full list of Premier League match official appointments here.