Alex Ferguson has already made his move. Before their League Cup encounter against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the Manchester United manager jokingly wished tonight's referee Lee Mason "good luck."
Interestingly, and thanks to Mike Clattenburg's red card for Fernando Torres and Javier Hernandez's offside winner in the English Premier League clash between the two teams last Sunday, the spotlight won't be on the players, but on the referee.
There was also the added controversy of a steward being injured after Hernandez scored the winner and the official complaint against Clattenburg for using "inappropriate language" against two Chelsea players.
But Lee Mason isn't very far from controversy either. We dug up a few statistics and here's what we found out.
MANCHESTER UNITED MATCHES/CONTROVERSIES
- Mason has officiated eight Man United matches: seven league and one League Cup tie. Out of these, United have won seven and drawn one. So basically United have never lost a game in which Mason has refereed.
- He has given nine yellow cards to their players and 12 to teams against them.
- He has awarded two penalties for and two against the Red Devils.
- He has sent off one player — QPR's Shaun Derry in last season's April encounter.
- In Man United's 2-0 win against QPR at Old Trafford, Derry was sent off harshly for a foul on Ashley Young, who was offside when the foul was committed. Wayne Rooney converted the resulting penalty. But QPR had little to complain — United had taken 24 shots on that day and the pressure may have eventually paid off.
- In April 2011, Mason awarded two penalties to West Ham and one penalty to United. While Patrice Evra's hand-ball was clear, Nemanja Vidic's foul on Ba earned West Ham a spot-kick but should have merited a sending off. To make things worse, Mason then pointed to the spot when Matthew Upson handled in the area. It was a very soft decision and the score was at 2-2. Rooney converted and United won the match 4-2.
- In December 2010, when Birmingham earned a 1-1 draw at St.Andrew's, Mason came under criticism from United after he allowed Lee Bowyer's equaliser to stand after a hand-ball and offside in the build-up.
- Mason has officiated 13 Chelsea matches: nine league, one League Cup and one FA Cup game. Out of these, Chelsea have won nine and drawn four. So Chelsea have also never lost with Mason as referee. Any which way, one of the streaks will end tonight.
- He has awarded three penalties for Chelsea and one against them.
- He has shown 21 yellow cards and one red card to a Blues player while booking 32 players from their opposition.
- At Stamford Bridge this season, Chelsea were awarded a huge favour when Mason allowed Torres' clearly offside goal to stand against Reading. The score was 2-2 at the time and Chelsea went on to win 4-2.
- In Chelsea's 6-1 win over Macclesfield in January 2007, Andriy Shevchenko could have avoided Tommy Lee's outstretched hand but banged into it— resulting in Mason showing a red card to Lee. The ensuing penalty was scored.
NOW FORGET ABOUT REF, HERE ARE MATCH STATS
- John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Torres are all banned from this match. Terry because of his racism suspension and the other two because of their red cards in the previous match.
- Team changes are expected. Chelsea could try out Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back and Marko Marin, Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge could all feature in attack.
- For Man United, it is highly likely that Ferguson will save Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for their clash against Arsenal on November 3.
- The two teams have met four times in the League Cup. While Chelsea prevailed in a two-legged semi-final in 2005, Manchester United have won two ties outright.
- The 3-2 win last Sunday means United are unbeaten in their last six matches against Chelsea. They also have Robin van Persie in their armoury — a player who has scored a record six goals as an opposition player at Stamford Bridge.
- Chelsea have reached eight of the last eleven League Cup quarter-finals.