Jurgen Klopp took a swipe at former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg and promised he has not been playing mind games ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United.
The Liverpool manager said he has “unfortunately not got the skills” for the sort of calculated trickery in which former United boss Alex Ferguson was once such a master.
Klopp observed after Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton in early January that United had been winning far more penalties than his team.
During Klopp’s tenure, Liverpool have been awarded 46 penalties in all competitions, including 30 in the Premier League, whereas United have been given 67 spot-kicks in that time.
In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as United boss, the Red Devils have had 42 penalties, compared to just 19 for Liverpool.
Former top-flight whistler Clattenburg said Klopp sounded “like a hypocrite” if he was insinuating United’s players were trying to win penalties, saying Liverpool’s players were capable of doing just the same.
Clattenburg told the Daily Mail that Klopp’s comments amounted to “mind games – an attempt to influence referee Paul Tierney and get inside his head” before he officiates in Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash at Anfield.
Klopp, however, hit back at Clattenburg’s claim.
“Am I surprised somebody’s talking about what I said after the Southampton game? No,” Klopp told a news conference on Friday.
“I’m not ever surprised that Mark Clattenburg spoke about it, no. 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 people like Mark Clattenburg speak like they speak, it always says much more about them than it could ever say about me.
“So if he would be in my situation he would obviously play mind games. I’ve unfortunately not got the skills for playing mind games, that’s my problem.”
Sunday’s game will be Klopp’s 200th as Liverpool’s manager in the Premier League, having joined the club in October 2015.
It promises to be a stiff test for the reigning Premier League champions, who have picked up an average of just 1.22 points per game against United during Klopp’s tenure, fewer than against any other opponent.
However, the two wins Liverpool have achieved in their nine Premier League clashes with United under Klopp have come in the last two meetings at Anfield.
“I’ve never thought about it. It looks like an okay record but who cares about this record if you don’t win the next one. That’s how I see it,” Klopp said.
He has comfortably the best win ratio of any Liverpool manager in the top-flight, picking up 127 wins in his first 199 Premier League games, for a 63.8 per cent strike rate.
Next on the all-time list is Kenny Dalglish, on 57.1 per cent, followed by Bob Paisley and Rafael Benitez.
“I’m not living for a second in the past,” Klopp said. “So far, so good. We have to carry on, we have to get better. It feels like I had much more games.
“It’s only 200 but it’s a good number as well. It’s all okay but it’s nothing to really think about.”
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