"I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half-years," said Jurgen Klopp after Liverpool's defeat at Southampton; watch Liverpool vs Man Utd on Super Sunday on January 17, live on Sky Sports
Tuesday 5 January 2021 22:46, UK
Jurgen Klopp compared Liverpool's penalty record to Manchester United's - but does he have a point?
The champions slipped to a second league defeat of the season at Southampton on Monday, with Klopp frustrated his side were not successful with two second-half penalty appeals.
Kyle Walker-Peters' challenge on Sadio Mane and Jack Stephens' handball while blocking Georginio Wijnaldum's shot both went unpunished by referee Andre Marriner, prompting Klopp to highlight the disparity between the number of penalties awarded to Liverpool compared to rivals Manchester United.
"I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half-years," Klopp said. "I've no idea if that's my fault, or how that can happen."
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer later laughed off Klopp's comparison of the club's penalty records.
The United boss said he would not spend his time counting as his side prepare to host Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening, live on Sky Sports - but suggested the point could have been made to influence referees
"That's a fact? Probably," said Solskjaer. "That's probably going to be my answer, that's a fact that we've got more than them. I don't count how many penalties they've had, so if they want to spend time on worrying about when we get fouled in the box… I don't spend time on that.
"I can't talk on behalf of other managers, why they say things like this," he added, before making reference to a penalty shout which was overlooked in their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea last season.
"I felt it worked last year in the semi in the FA Cup, because Frank [Lampard] spoke about it and we had a nailed-on penalty that we should have had, that we didn't get.
"So maybe it's a way of influencing the referees. I don't know. But I don't worry about that. When they foul our players it's a penalty when it's inside the box."
Since Jurgen Klopp took the reins at Anfield in early October 2015, Manchester United have been awarded 41 penalties, 11 more than Liverpool; around an extra two per season on average.
In the early years of the Klopp dynasty, however, when Jose Mourinho was in charge at Old Trafford, the finger was pointed to the spot far more in Liverpool's favour than for their old rivals.
In 2016/17, Liverpool were awarded eight to United's four. Liverpool did score 24 more goals across the course of the season which could go some way to explaining that - but they had only 100 touches more in the opposition penalty area.
The following season, when Mourinho's United finished runners-up in the Premier League, they scored only 68 goals to Liverpool's 84, and had 206 fewer touches in the opposition box than Liverpool, but both sides were awarded three spot kicks over the course of the campaign.
Liverpool did, though, score six more goals than in the previous season, suggesting Klopp's side had become more clinical rather than simply unlucky with referees' decisions.
Things began to swing away from Liverpool's favour midway into the following season, though.
As Mourinho departed Old Trafford and Solskjaer took his place, fast breaks and counter-attacking football became the order of the day, and soon United's numbers began to rise.
Jesse Lingard scored from the spot in Solskjaer's first Premier League victory in his first game in charge of Manchester United against Cardiff in December 2018.
Since then, no club has taken more (27) or scored more (21) penalties than United. By contrast, during the same period, Liverpool have taken just 17 Premier League penalties.
Klopp has a point about the disparity in numbers of free shots at goal awarded to United compared to Liverpool, especially in the last couple of years, although his numbers on the exact comparison were slightly out.
Klopp's intention may have been to draw attention to some of the more dubious spot kicks awarded to Solskjaer's side which have rightly been called into question - like the one Bruno Fernandes won and converted against Aston Villa during Project Restart, despite the Portuguese appearing to initiate contact with Ezri Konsa.
But, as Klopp admitted after the defeat at St. Mary's, so too have Liverpool's players been criticised for going down easily, with the manager referencing Mane's last-minute penalty win against Leicester in the same season.
So while the data can say one thing, it may be a stretch too far to claim United have had an easy ride with referees compared to Liverpool over the last five years - but mind games haven't always followed logic to the letter.