The decision to appoint Anthony Taylor as the referee of Manchester United’s match at Liverpool next Monday is “grossly unfair” on the official, according to former referees’ chief Keith Hackett.
Taylor, who was born six miles away from Old Trafford in Wythenshawe, will take charge at Anfield for the biggest game in the upcoming round of fixtures when the Premier League resumes after the international break.
The 37-year-old, who reportedly supports non-league side Altrincham, has overseen seven Premier League matches this season, handing out 23 yellow cards.
“No-one is questioning Anthony’s integrity or his ability to handle this game,” Hackett, the former head of Professional Games Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), said in the Daily Telegraph.
“You could argue it’s testimony to his unflappable character and capacity to focus that he’s been appointed to it.
“Taylor is also in form and establishing himself firmly as one of the select group’s best operators. But what if something goes wrong for him on the day — as it can for even the finest referees?
“That’s when the focus on him would be intolerable, especially if a controversial incident has gone in favour of Liverpool and it influences the result.
“If that happens then it would be those who appointed him who must take the blame for taking such an avoidable risk — on a weekend when Mark Clattenburg, the 2016 Champions League final referee, is holding up a board as fourth official in another match.”
However, former Premier League referee Graham Poll wrote in the Daily Mail: “Anthony Taylor is a trusted member of the select group of referees and one it’s most senior officials.
“His appointment to referee Monday evening’s Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester United should certainly not raise any eyebrows despite him living and working in the Manchester area.
“Taylor has already taken charge of Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Southampton in the Premier League this season and refereed them three times last season and Liverpool four times.”
“Our referees are professional and have huge credibility to referee any game with impartiality something that other Countries could not always say.
“They will continue to make mistakes, as we all do in our professional lives. However, none are due to any bias or affected by where they live and to suggest otherwise is a slight on their characters.”