Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has claimed Jurgen Klopp is to blame for Manchester United not being given penalties in recent weeks. Yes, really.
The Man United boss has bemoaned referees not handing out spot-kicks to his team against West Ham in both league and cup fixtures across the last seven days, saying Cristiano Ronaldo should have been given two at the London Stadium and Jesse Lingard another at Old Trafford in midweek.
It’s a constant theme with Solskjaer that he presents these claims as fact, that it absolutely must have been a penalty and there’s no possible question that his team have been wronged – though Lingard’s team-mate last season Mark Noble was pretty clear in his disagreement: “[Lingard] dived and I told him off for screaming, funnily enough he didn’t really do it at our place but he does it here!”
Even so, it’s not only the refs who are fault (and the assistants, and the VAR) according to the United boss.
No, it’s Jurgen Klopp.
Back in January, it was the Reds’ manager who noted a theme about spot-kicks not being given his team’s way, and compared that to the constant opportunities from 12 yards United managed to earn.
“I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half-years,” he said. “I’ve no idea if that’s my fault, or how that can happen.”
Premier League penalties since Klopp's comments in January 2021:
Man United 5-2 Liverpool
— Andrew Beasley ? (@BassTunedToRed) September 24, 2021
And those comments have been brought up now by his Old Trafford opposite number, after his side were knocked out of the cup by the Hammers in midweek.
“We just have to hope we get what we deserve. We should have had three penalties in the last two games,” Solskjaer complained.
“There was a certain manager last year who was starting to worry about us getting pens and after that it seems like the decisions are more difficult to give.
“I’ve seen a big, big difference since then. We just have to leave it to the refs and hopefully they’ll make the right calls very soon.”
Liverpool in the Premier League under Klopp: 225 games, 7,192 touches in the opposition's box
Man Utd in the Premier League under Solskjær: 102 games, 2,641 touches in the opposition's box
Both 32 penalties awarded each. ? https://t.co/B0BkmaBu4o
— Michael Reid (@michael_reid11) September 24, 2021
United were awarded 11 penalties in total during the 20/21 Premier League season: six in 16 games before Klopp’s comments and five in 22 afterwards – not particularly convincing as evidence of “a big, big difference”.
Particularly when United had already been awarded as many spot-kicks by January as all but five other teams were handed all season long.
At the other end of the scale, Burnley won only three penalties, so it’s hard to take Solskjaer’s complaints particularly seriously that his team are being hard-done-by on account of a throwaway sentence spoken nine months ago.
It’s probably also worth noting at the time of Klopp’s original comment, Solskjaer had a response:
“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. Maybe it’s a way of influencing the referees. I don’t know. But I don’t worry about that.”
It appears he has changed his mind, and now he is rather keen to discuss other boss’ comments and attempt to influence referees.