MICHAEL Oliver has been confirmed as the referee for Manchester United’s eagerly-awaited Premier League encounter with Liverpool on Saturday.

It will be the first time the 30-year-old, from Northumberland, will oversee a north-west derby between the two heavyweights when they meet at Old Trafford in the evening kick-off (17:30 BST).

He will be assisted by Fifa linesmen Gary Beswick (County Durham) and Stuart Burt (Northamptonshire) while the fourth official will be Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Oliver is one of only three referees – along with Martin Atkinson and Craig Pawson – who will have officiated a Premier League every weekend so far this season.

The Ashingdon-based whistler has already issued three red cards in four games – more than any other Select Group official.

He dismissed Chelsea goalkeeper Thibault Courtois for what he perceived to be a last-man challenge on Bafetimbi Gomis in their 2-2 draw with Swansea before being the fourth official for Arsenal’s first home game against West Ham on the opening weekend.

Oliver then handled Everton’s 3-0 win at Southampton before encountering Liverpool in their goalless draw at Arsenal – in which he issued five yellow cards at the Emirates Stadium on August 24.

Before the international break, the Fifa Category One official incurred the wrath of Stoke boss Mark Hughes after reducing his side to nine men inside 35 minutes of their 1-0 home defeat by West Brom – sending off Ibrahim Afellay and Charlie Adam on the advice of his assistants.

Last season, Oliver sent off United defender Chris Smalling for two bookable offences during November’s Manchester derby defeat to City but was criticised for failing to take action against City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who squared up to the official.

In United’s FA Cup quarter-final with Arsenal in March, Oliver dismissed Angel di Maria for diving and then tugging his shirt within the space of a minute.

He was also in the middle for United’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City on New Year’s Day and awarded them a controversial penalty for an alleged Scott Dann handball in their 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace in May.

Oliver recently hit the headlines when stepping in to replace an injured official at a women’s match being refereed by his wife Lucy.

It promises to be another tough assignment for Oliver in what is regarded by many as English football’s biggest game.

Both meetings last season were refereed by Martin Atkinson, who sent off Reds skipper Steven Gerrard within 40 seconds of his arrival at Anfield.

United won 3-0 in December at Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie on target before Mata scored twice and Rooney missed a penalty in United’s 2-1 win at Anfield in March.

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