By Christopher Davies

CUNEYT Cakir, the Turkish referee who sent-off Nani in Manchester United’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Real Madrid at Old Trafford, has emerged as favourite to take charge of the all-German final at Wembley between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Cakir showed Nani the red card for a challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa in the 56th minute when United were winning 2-1 on aggregate. Two goals in 13 minutes saw Real advance to the semi-finals, Sir Alex Ferguson blaming United’s defeat on Cakir. Ferguson was so incensed he refused to attend a post-match press conference, incurring an £8,500 fine from UEFA.

The decision to dismiss Nani was widely criticised, but crucially the Turk was supported by Pierluigi Collina, the match officials’ assessor at Old Trafford and an influential voice on UEFA’s Referees Committee. Collina gave Cakir a mark of 8.2 for his display at Old Trafford, the Italian’s only criticism of the referee was that he should have also shown Rio Ferdinand the red card for appearing to sarcastically applaud him inches from his face as they left the pitch.

Cakir, 36, is highly rated by FIFA, too, as world football’s governing body appointed him to handle the potentially explosive 2014 World Cup qualifying tie between Croatia and Serbia in March which passed off without any controversial incident. He also refereed the 2012 Club World Cup final between Chelsea and Corinthians, which the Brazilians won 1-0. In the last minute Cakir sent-off Gary Cahill for a challenge on Emerson.

Also among Cakir’s red card list are Steven Gerrard during England versus Ukraine last September when he also handed out nine yellow cards, Republic of Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews against Italy at Euro 2012, Chelsea’s John Terry against Barcelona in April 2012 and Mario Balotelli in Manchester City’s Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev in March 2011.

But his no-nonsense approach has won him admirers at UEFA and he is set to return to England for the Champions League final at Wembley on May 25.

*THIS has been on Planet Twitter, but if you have missed it…it is an incredible choice of photograph for Johnny Giles’ Wikipedia page.

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