MICHAEL Oliver is "now our finest referee . . .”
That is the view of Keith Hackett, himself a former top ref who now writes a regular column for the sports pages of The Daily Telegraph.
In today’s edition (December 11), he commends the way the Northumberland official (still only 32) handled yesterday’s top-of-the-Premier clash between the two Manchester clubs and describes him as “very close to being promoted to Uefa’s Elite panel”.
Of the big match, he writes: “He would have been under enormous pressure and handled it expertly, giving a calm and measured performance that does him real credit.”
Continues Hackett: “His body language is very confident and he has a manner with players that encourages respect.”
The ex-ref’s only caveat is that Oliver “sometimes allows games to drift away from him by not blowing for free-kicks in an attempt to let the game flow.
“That can lead to players committing further fouls.”
In the same report, Hackett also praises Craig Pawson’s handling of yesterday’s other derby - the match between Liverpool and Everton.