In what is undoubtedly the most hotly anticipated fixture of the upcoming Premier League weekend, Manchester United travel the short distance to the Etihad Stadium to take on neighbours and fierce rivals Manchester City.
The unbeaten home side, and reigning title holders, are the heavy favourites heading into the game. However, cliche though it may be, form tends to go out of the window in such derbies, as the Red Devils proved with their remarkable comeback win in this fixture last season.
Jose Mourinho will be out to spoil the Cityzens’ party once more but many City fans are equally worried about the influence referee Anthony Taylor may have on the outcome of the match.
Although he’s a fan of non-league Altrincham, plenty of the Etihad faithful are concerned that the 40-year-old maybe biased towards United. Registered to the Cheshire FA, and born in Wythenshawe – a United fanbase stronghold – Taylor certainly has local ties, as reported by The Telegraph.
Plenty of City fans on Twitter have also voiced their dismay with the decision to appoint Taylor for his first Manchester derby…
So Altrincham’s No1 fan Anthony Taylor, who’s family are all rag supporters, is the ref for Sunday’s derby unbelievable
— John Palmer (@Mcfc13) 6 November 2018
Anthony Taylor , from a family of reds is the ref for Sunday. @mancity are we seriously not going to challenge this ?
— 1894 Group (@1894Group_MCFC) 6 November 2018
Cue the media absolutely crucifying sterling for diving (even tho he kicked the floor) all week and then Anthony Taylor bottling a stonewall pen on him on Sunday
— AG_mcfc (@Spanishdave4) 7 November 2018
However, Taylor’s stats so far this season suggest that Pep Guardiola’s side have little to worry about.
In terms of fouls per game, Taylor averages just 23.09 – which sees him rank 7th out of the 17 top flight officials to have taken charge of a game so far during this campaign. What’s more, in terms of fouls per tackle, Taylor averages 0.69 – ranking him 8th. These well balanced figures suggest that Taylor is capable of maintaining a free flowing game, but won’t let the tempers flare in the derby either. Such an approach ought to suit City’s fast-paced style.
With maintaining order in mind – always foremost in any referee’s thoughts ahead of officiating a derby such as this – it is vital that Taylor is firm but fair. He has shown 40 yellow cards so far this season, at an average rate of 3.64 per game. This figure sees him rank 5th out of the 17, and also suggests that, again, he takes a very measured approach in dealing out bookings.
Likewise, in terms of penalties awarded, Taylor ranks 10th out of 17 with an average of just 0.27 spot kicks given per game. These middle of the road figures indicate that any extreme measures taken by Taylor this Sunday, that favour one side or the other, would be very uncharacteristic.
One stat that does appear to favour City, though, is Taylor’s 82% home team win bias. If that win bias is a rule of thumb to go by, then City fans are likely to be heading home from the Etihad on Sunday in far better spirits about Taylor’s involvement than they currently find themselves in.