The 41-year-old from Bradford has is tasked with the biggest fixture of the season at The Etihad and both sets of players will have bad memories of Atkinson in recent big matches. Is he the right choice by the FA?
Martin Atkinson has been appointed in charge of the game despite many believing Howard Webb would be the first choice for the game.
Instead Atkinson has been given the role and given his history with both teams it should act as an interesting subplot ahead of the fixture.
Manchester City fans have still get irritated at the thought of Martin Atkinson allowing six minutes of injury time, or Fergie time if you want to be that way, rather than the four indicated by the fourth official. It would have been a non-issue had Michael Owen not snuck in at the back post and stabbed home a winning goal in a pulsating 4-3 victory at The Etihad in 2009. He did however and City fans were up in arms. Since then relations between Atkinson and City have thawed; he even officiated there FA Cup final triumph against Stoke City in 2011.
While the relationship between Atkinson and the blue-half of Manchester may have improved the same cannot be said about the 41-year-old and the red-side of things, in particular Sir Alex Ferguson himself.
Fergie has been rapped for making comments about the referee in the past. He was furious after a decision to gift Chelsea a free-kick in 2009 resulted in the only goal of a 1-0 victory for The Blues that day. A year later and he was even more perturbed at a decision to award Chelsea with a soft penalty. In fact he said something along the lines of this, if you’ll remember rightly:
“You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway – and we didn’t get that. I must say, when I saw who the referee was I feared it. I feared the worst.”
Fergie was fined £30,000 and given a two-match touchline ban for those comments.
Perhaps the FA feel that Atkinson, given his previously fractious relationships with both clubs is the perfect man for the job.
We don’t know what Fergie would think about that.
Should Martin Atkinson have been given the Manchester derby?
Here are some Tweets on the matter…
not happy to see martin atkinson officiate this weekend. remember how twice he won games for chelsea, very much a "homie"— lynden pearce (@LyndenPearce) December 3, 2012
Martin Atkinson to referee the Derby. Not sure whether we've got him on United's payroll or not?— Josh Gawne (@JLGawne) December 4, 2012
Martin atkinson has been appointed referee for #ManchesterDerby.. Why him?? Why not howard web? Lol— #Masha'Allah (@Mz_HinDaA) December 3, 2012
Martin Atkinson could not give anything more against us if he tried,— Troy Featherstone (@Troystory1) December 1, 2012
Martin Atkinson will referee the rderby this Sunday not much point in Utd turning up then!— Ciaran Donaghy (@TheAnswer75) December 3, 2012
image: © tomjoad