Jurgen Klopp has rejected Mark Clattenburg’s claims of hypocrisy over Liverpool’s approach to winning penalties, and insisted there are no divers in his squad.
Despite pitting the Premier League‘s first and second-placed sides against each other, the buildup to Liverpool’s clash with Man United on Sunday has largely focused on penalties, celebrations and injuries.
Particularly tiresome is the narrative around spot-kicks, with former referee Clattenburg taking exception to Klopp pointing out United’s favourable penalty record and the wider suggestion that their players go down too easily.
Clattenburg said “he was making a valid point. Even if it does ignore similar suspicions about some of his stars,” with his view being that United were “being clever.”
Marcus Rashford then revealed that the influence of Jose Mourinho had led to a “savvy” approach in the penalty box, which, in his pre-match press conference, Klopp refuted as being something he had looked to drill into his own squad.
“No. I can 100 percent, honestly, [say] I’ve never, never mentioned something like this to any players I’ve worked with,” he told reporters.
“I’ve worked with a lot of players. If you have time, ask all of them – it never happened. So that’s it.
“Am I surprised that somebody’s talking about what I said after the Southampton game? No, I’m not.
“Am I surprised that Mark Clattenburg speaks about it? No. I’m not sure if he got asked a lot of things.
“Meanwhile, it’s long after his career, so it’s nice for him that we can talk about him as well…I’m not Sir Alex, and for different reasons.
“When he said ‘he tried something’ and ‘mind games’ – directly after the Southampton game, in this moment between this game and the United game we had another game, I didn’t think for a second about the United game in that moment.
“But before this game against Southampton I saw the stats about the penalties, and that’s what I mentioned.
“When people like Mark Clattenburg speak like they speak, it always says much more about them than it could ever say about me.
“If he would be in my situation he obviously would play mind games – unfortunately, I have no skills for playing mind games, that’s my problem.”
Scrutiny over Liverpool, United and penalties ahead of Sunday’s title clash has stemmed from Klopp’s comments after the 1-0 loss to Southampton – in which the Reds could have been awarded two spot-kicks, with both incidents waved away.
Klopp pointed out United’s recent record with being awarded penalties, and while Clattenburg said “he is wrong to suggest there is an aura around United that sees them given favourable decisions,” the manager said he was simply using them as an example.
“So there were two situations I think in the last two games. Sadio Mane had a foul situation – which is a penalty for me, but it’s not important. I cannot whistle but I have to say my opinion,” Klopp continued.
“There was the handball and another situation where Sadio didn’t go down, and now I said when people still say ‘he’s a diver’ or whatever, it’s just not right.
“The game before against Newcastle, we had pictures where the goalie is sitting on the ground and has both arms around Sadio Mane‘s legs. He didn’t go down, he tries to score the goal.
“I didn’t tell him ‘why didn’t you go down?’, we didn’t speak about it. If Sadio feels he gets fouled, he goes down, that’s how it is. If not, then not, obviously. That’s the situation.
“It’s not the player who should make the decision whether it should be a penalty or not, it’s the ref who should make the decision.
“After the Southampton game, the next day pretty much the only thing I really read, [was] just to try to understand how people living on another planet obviously see it, how the situation was that the handball was no handball and the Sadio Mane thing.
“I think his name is Mr Dermot [Gallagher] or so, the ‘Ref Watch’ [on Sky Sports], and he said ‘that was no handball, and the other thing was not a penalty as well’, and you think ‘OK, obviously I’m wrong and they are always right’.
“It’s just the situation. I don’t want penalties which are not penalties, but if there’s a penalty it would be nice if there is one, because they are part of the game. That’s all.”