Mike Dean has confessed that in the early stages of his officiating career, he was “nervous” to make judgements against players like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.

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After a quick ascent through the ranks, the 53-year-old began refereeing top-flight English games in 2000.

After more than two decades in the Premier League, Dean has announced that he will retire at the end of the current season.

However, he has stated that in the early years, players like Keane and Vieira were intimidating to manage.

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Speaking on BBC Sports he said: “I got into the Premier League in 2000 when I was 31, 32, and you had massive, big personality players, the Keanes, people like that… Vieiras, they were all around then.

“For me to come from the Football League to the Premier League and reffing them players, having gone from reffing League One and League Two and the odd Championship game, to being in the Premier League, it was just a massive step and I was probably in awe of them as well, to be fair.

“[I was] probably a bit nervous and a bit scared of making a decision.”

During their playing days, Keane and Vieira had a renowned rivalry, which included a dramatic altercation in the tunnel before a huge Premier League match.

However, Manchester United legend Keane has stated that he has a great deal of respect for the Arsenal midfielder.

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Meanwhile, Dean has been linked to a permanent position in the VAR room following his announcement that he will retire from refereeing in the summer.

However, he has denied the allegations, claiming that he has not yet been approached about the part.

“Times have moved on, referees are getting older, I am not getting as fit as I used to be, so things have got to change,” he added.

“I have made the decision myself, I have gone out on my terms which is what I wanted to do and nobody else’s terms which is good.

“Contrary to reports and speculation, I have been offered no VAR role at all, that is just word of mouth I think.”

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