Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has implied Jurgen Klopp might be attempting to influence referees by bringing up Manchester United’s penalty record compared to Liverpool’s own recent spot-kick history.
A recent upturn in fortunes means the Red Devils are level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool. Their own undercooked performance on Monday saw them fall to a shock 1-0 loss at Southampton.
After the match, Klopp accepted Liverpool are in a sticky patch.
Klopp accepted they were far from their best at St Mary’s. But he argued his side should have been awarded a penalty for a foul on Sadio Mane, before taking aim at their rivals along the M62.
Liverpool welcome United to Anfield on January 17 and it seems the penalty records of the two sides is irking him.
“We cannot change,” the Reds boss said. “I hear now Man United had more penalties in two years than I had in five and a half years. I’ve no idea if that’s my fault, or how that can happen.”
When Klopp’s remarks were put to Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City, the United manager afforded himself a laugh.
“And that’s a fact, probably,” he said. “That’s probably going to be my answer – that’s a fact that we’ve got more than them.
“But maybe they should… well, we’ve had… I don’t know how many penalties they’ve had. I don’t count how many penalties they have.
“So, if they want to spend time on worrying about when we get fouled in the box then I don’t spend time on that.”
Whether Solskjaer was likening Klopp’s comments to Rafael Benitez’s ‘facts’ rant at Sir Alex Ferguson is up for interpretation. However, his frustration at other managers was clear.
United have been awarded six league penalties this season compared to the five won by Klopp’s men. However, they have been given 42 in all competitions since Solskjaer took over in December 2018. That compares to Liverpool’s 19.
But the Norwegian believes his side should have had even more. He pointed to the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, suggesting Frank Lampard had an impact when saying in the build-up that United were getting a run of favourable VAR decisions.
Klopp isn’t the first to comment on United’s record of being awarded penalties. Indeed, Jose Mourinho made a similar dig at Bruno Fernandes late last season.
When asked for his thoughts, Solskjaer gave a dignified response.
“I can’t talk on behalf of other managers, why they say things like this,” Solskjaer said.
“Obviously I felt it worked last year in the semi in the FA Cup. That’s because Frank 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 referees. I don’t know.
“But I don’t worry about that. You know when they foul our players I think it is a penalty, it’s just when it’s inside the box.”
Fourth time lucky for Solskjaer
The FA Cup defeat to Chelsea was one of three semi-final losses United fell to in 2019-20. They also lost to City in the Carabao Cup and suffered Europa League disappointment against Sevilla.
Solskjaer is now looking to make it fourth time lucky by reaching his first final as United boss. Once again it is Pep Guardiola who leads his side to an empty Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“On last year’s three semi-finals, Anthony (Martial) came on and he should have had a penalty,” Solskjaer said, referring to the FA Cup loss to Chelsea. “They’re fine margins when you get to a semi.
“Even against Sevilla I thought we played one of our best games. We were very, very close to getting through against a very difficult side.
“We’ve learned hopefully but it’s not about learning. Sometimes it’s fine margins and sometimes it’s quality. We are a better team now than six months back or 12 months back.
“Hopefully we have got the quality when it matters, when we’ve got a chance or when we’ve got a one against one and defenders make a block or that we defend well.
“Semis, you earn the right to win a trophy by going through. You play against more and more difficult opponents every game. Naturally a semi is harder than a quarter-final.
“Quarter-final a few weeks back I thought was fantastic for us. We showed the quality, strength in depth and hopefully we can make it one step further this time.”