ALEX Ferguson’s fears of a refereeing bias against Manchester United were seemingly eased on Tuesday when Howard Webb was asked to handle the potential Barclays Premier League title decider against Chelsea on Sunday.
The United manager had expressed concern that his side would not get the decisions they deserve in the showdown at Old Trafford, but he will be more confident after the appointment of Webb, whom he has described in the past as a “top referee”.
Praise for a match official from Ferguson has been rare during his 25 years in charge of United, but it is unsurprising given the manner in which Webb has handled many of their matches.
Webb has awarded three penalties to United in his past four matches at Old Trafford and was in charge during their last league win over Chelsea, a 3-0 home victory in January 2009.
Given his pedigree as a World Cup and Champions League final referee, Webb was an obvious choice for the biggest game of the domestic season by the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO), but his selection is not without controversy. The 39-year-old was famously mocked-up in a United shirt on Twitter by Ryan Babel in the aftermath of their FA Cup win over Liverpool in January, when he awarded Ferguson’s side a second-minute penalty and sent off Steven Gerrard.
Webb also caused a furore by awarding United a controversial spot kick against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in April 2009, which sparked their comeback from 2-0 down to win 5-2, but he has also angered Ferguson.
The Scot accused Webb of “favouring Arsenal” during a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium four years ago. Chelsea trail United by three points with three matches left, but will go above them on goal difference if they win.