• Premier League

Webb gets controversial United-Liverpool assignment

ESPN staff
January 8, 2013
Howard Webb will referee the match at Old Trafford © Getty Images

Howard Webb has been named as the referee for Sunday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford.

It will be the first time that the Rotherham official has taken charge of one of the biggest domestic club fixtures in world football since an FA Cup tie in January 2011.

In that match - Kenny Dalglish's first game back in charge of Liverpool - United won 1-0 courtesy of Ryan Giggs's early penalty, while Reds captain Steven Gerrard was sent off in the 32nd minute.

That result prompted then Liverpool forward Ryan Babel to post a mocked-up picture of Webb wearing a United shirt on his Twitter account. The post and the accompanying tweet - "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke." - saw the Dutchman fined £10,000 and warned over his future conduct.

Webb is regarded as one of the top officials in world football, and in 2010 became the first referee to take charge of the finals of both the Champions League and the World Cup in the same year.

Former referee Graham Poll told the Daily Mail: "Howard Webb, as the No. 1 referee as ranked by UEFA, FIFA and the Premier League is a natural selection for the Manchester United-Liverpool match this weekend.

"He was selected for the World Cup final and the Champions League, so it is hard to argue with those credentials.

"In appointing Webb, referee chief Mike Riley is covered, in that even if the game goes badly, he can say 'well I appointed the No. 1 referee'."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.