This Saturday, the Premier League will host one of the most awaited fixtures of the year – the North West Derby, which sees Manchester United clash against Liverpool. The two have been locking horns for countless years now, most prominently since Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous vow to knock the Merseysiders off their perch.
However, Liverpool fans ought to already prepare themselves to taste defeat, and it is for a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with the forms of either team.
Simply put, Liverpool have never won against United in a match that has been officiated by referee Martin Atkinson. Their last such encounter scandalously saw Steven Gerrard being shown red by the man a mere 38 seconds after being subbed on. For Saturday, it is once again Atkinson that has been picked.
The trend has held for three matches, the latest of which was the host of the aforementioned incident which ended with the Red Devils winning 2-1 back in 2015. The earlier derby of the same season was officiated by Atkinson as well, and that culminated in a 2-0 advantage to United. Before that, the combination occurred in March of 2007, where Liverpool were defeated 1-0 at home.
Further, it isn’t merely a matter of coincidence either, as the referee has always been the subject of controversial decisions, and ones that haven’t always worked in the favor of the Mancunian club.
Just last season, during their 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea, the referee came under fire for not sending off David Luiz for a high boot on Marouane Fellaini. Even before that, back in 2011, with the same two clubs clashing, Atkinson yet again failed to suspend Luiz, this time by not showing him the second yellow card for a challenge on Wayne Rooney.
On that occasion, Sir Alex Ferguson had choice words for the official, as the Scot had stated: “You want a strong referee anyway and we didn’t get that. I don’t know why he’s got the game. I must say that when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst.”
Saturday’s encounter will be bound to have its share of tensions and tackles, and supporters from both sides will be praying that the teams famous for their red jerseys won’t be seeing the colour in any other form.
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.