Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested Jurgen Klopp is having a similar meltdown to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.
Klopp highlighted the amount of penalties United receive compared to his Reds side following their 1-0 defeat away at Southampton on Monday night, in which Sadio Mane was controversially denied a spot-kick.
The German said: “I hear now that Manchester 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.”
While Klopp’s claim doesn’t quite prove correct, the numbers do suggest he has a point.
Since he took the Anfield reins in October 2015, Liverpool have been awarded 46 penalties, and in Solskjaer’s two years at Old Trafford United have come close to that figure with 42 spot-kicks.
But the Red Devils boss hit back at Klopp by referencing Benitez’s famous ‘facts’ press conference rant at Sir Alex Ferguson in 2009.
While competing with Ferguson in the title race that year, Benitez produced a list of ‘facts’ about his United counterpart’s alleged influence over referees, which many believe marked the downfall of his side as they eventually failed in their bid to become champions.
“And that’s a fact, probably. That is going to be my answer,” Solskjaer said.
“It’s a fact that we have got more than him.”
Solskjaer looks likely to be competing with Klopp in the Premier League title race this season, with Liverpool’s defeat at Southampton meaning United can move three points clear of their bitter rivals at the top of the table by winning their game-in-hand.
And the Norwegian added about penalty-gate: “I don’t count how many penalties they have. So if they want to spend time worrying about when we get fouled in the box, I don’t spend time on that.”
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Ahead of their Carabao Cup semi-final showdown with Manchester City, Solskjaer has suggested that managers are trying to sway referees with their comments.
He continued: “I felt it worked last year in the FA Cup semis — because Frank Lampard spoke about it and then we had a nailed-on penalty we didn’t get. So maybe it’s a way of influencing referees.”