I toyed with the idea of just not bothering with this referee preview.
After all, it’s Old Trafford and no matter what man is in the middle, we get screwed.
Be it stonewall penalties denied or Wayne Rooney diving yet again, it feels, at times, nearly impossible to get a level playing field.
But, in the spirit of trying to be all professional, I shall push on.
Michael Oliver is the man charged with favouring United this week and the man from Ashington, Northumberland (another northern ref, have you spotted the pattern yet?) has taken charge of 26 games this season, issuing 99 yellows and five reds.
Put in charge of the season’s curtain raiser – the Community Shield at Wembley – he has refereed four Arsenal games this season, none of which Arsenal have lost (yet) (Arsenal 3 Manchester City 0, Arsenal 1 Tottenham 1, Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2, Brighton 2 Arsenal 3).
In those games he issued a total of 18 yellow cards and one red (Fabio Borini). Only six of the yellows have gone to Arsenal players, demonstrating a referee that might actually realise that Arsenal get kicked a lot more than they actually kick.
Oliver has only been in charge of two United games this season, neither of which Louis van Gaal’s men have won (Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0, Stoke 1 Manchester United 1), issuing five yellows and one red (Chris Smalling). He somehow managed to avoid producing a single card during United’s game against Stoke.
A young ref (30), he has a Facebook page dedicated to him called ‘Michael Oliver is the worst referee in the Premier League‘ which all seems rather harsh when you consider Anthony Taylor.
Truth be told, Oliver isn’t actually a bad referee and could be considered one of the better Premier League’s offerings.
He hasn’t been without controversy, although I doubt any referees in this division have.
Back in 2012 he earned Arsene Wenger’s ire for his performance as Arsenal lost 3-2 at Swansea with the manager saying “I still don’t understand where the referee found the penalty. We lost because we played against a good team, we were unlucky because we got a penalty that was not a penalty, and we made mistakes” after Oliver pointed to the spot when Nathan Dyer fell under a ‘challenge‘ from Aaron Ramsey when the score was 1-0 to Arsenal.
When we were drawn against United in the cup at Old Trafford I expected to see Mike Dean, Martin Atkinson or Mark Clattenburg handed the tie.
That it has went to Michael Oliver is small cause for celebration.
Let’s just hope the pattern of results under him holds.