Klopp begins mind games with ‘Penchester United’ after Liverpool fall to Southampton defeat
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men now in the driver’s seat in the race for the Premier League title, it is clear that Klopp’s inflammatory comments were an attempt at mind games. After all, you don’t see Klopp making comments about Chelsea anymore, do you?
Liverpool’s defeat to the Saints, courtesy of a solitary strike from former player Danny Ings, marked the third successive game that Klopp’s charges have failed to win. As a result of their recent poor run of form, Liverpool have allowed rivals Manchester United to catch them in the table – the two teams are currently joint-top on 33 points, although United have played a game less.
WATCH: Solskjaer discusses title race after Villa win
While Liverpool were far from their best against Southampton, Klopp felt that his team should have been awarded two penalties in the second half – one, for a challenge on Sadio Mane, and another for a potential handball by Jack Stephens.
However, as none of Klopp’s players were named Bruno Fernandes, referee Andre Marriner chose not to award spot-kicks to Liverpool for either incident, leaving Klopp incensed.
WATCH: An unhappy Klopp complains about United's favourable penalty record
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Klopp said: “If anybody ever again will say Sadio Mane is a 'diver', it's the biggest joke in the world. This boy tries to stay on his feet with all he has. In two situations… other teams will get a penalty for it, let me say it like this. Then the handball, I don't know who will explain that to me.”
Klopp continued his rant about the match officiating in the post-match press conference. “We had a really good view of it [the Mane incident], and it looked like a clear penalty,” Klopp complained. “I turned around to the fourth official and asked if it was going to be checked, he said it already had been and was not a penalty. That's 100 per cent true, and now someone wants to tell me how quick they had it in all these different angles.”
That was when he suddenly brought up the United comparison. While stopping short of using the popular fan nickname ‘Penchester United’ to describe the Old Trafford outfit, Klopp insinuated that United were being awarded penalties at a suspiciously higher rate than his team, as he 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.”
Rather belatedly, Klopp also acknowledged that his team did perform below-par against Southampton.
“The slow start cost us, that made life massively difficult tonight,” Klopp admitted. “All these things can happen; we are human beings. As great at the set-piece [for Ings' goal was] we knew they could do it and the player there who missed the ball, and then the next one was a great finish, but we could have defended it.
“This was a rather rusty moment; we have to admit that. You can only solve a problem if you know the problem, and we are not blind to our problems. We have to fight and play through this, it's up to us to change that.”
Liverpool and United are set to meet in the Premier League at Anfield on January 18 – a fixture that we are now willing to bet will feature at least a penalty or two.