Jurgen Klopp has hit back at Mark Clattenburg after the former Premier League referee accused the Liverpool boss of “hypocrisy” and “mind games” ahead of this weekend’s crunch clash with Manchester United.
Clattenburg, speaking in the Daily Mail, suggested Klopp had made a “blatant attempt to influence a referee ahead of a big game” when the German questioned - after his side’s 1-0 loss at Southampton on January 4 - why United received so many more penalties than Liverpool did.
“I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half-years,” Klopp said at St Mary’s. “I've no idea if that's my fault, or how that can happen.”
Addressing those comments, Clattenburg, who retired from Premier League officiating in 2017, wrote: “First, he sounds like a hypocrite if he is suggesting United's players are looking to win penalties. The likes of Mo Salah and [Sadio] Mane are just as capable of employing similar tactics.
“He is clearly getting edgy, though, because not since Fergie have we seen such a blatant attempt to influence a referee ahead of a big game. Klopp wasn't doing this last season when Liverpool were winning every week.
“He does not like losing, he never has. He gets prickly. But he is wrong to suggest there is an aura around United that sees them given favourable decisions. There used to be when Fergie was there, but that has eased massively since he left.
“It was mind games - an attempt to influence referee Paul Tierney and get inside his head before a huge match between Liverpool and United this Sunday.”
Asked about the row at his pre-match press conference on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table meeting at Anfield, Klopp responded in kind.
He told reporters: “Am I surprised that somebody is speaking about what I said after the Southampton game? No. Am I surprised that Mark Clattenburg speaks about it? No.
“I’m not sure why or if he got asked about it, but it’s nice that we can talk about him long after his career [has finished].
“I’m not Sir Alex, I don’t try mind games. I was asked directly after the Southampton game and I didn’t think for one second about the United game. I saw the stats about penalties before the Southampton game, that was it.
“When people like Mark Clattenburg speak now, it always says much more about them than it ever could about me. Maybe if he was ever in my situation then he would play mind games, but unfortunately I have no skills for playing mind games!”
Klopp also rejected the idea that he would ever instruct his players to go to ground easily in order to ensure penalties are awarded.
“Never,” he said, while making a ‘crossed heart’ gesture. “I can 100 per cent say I never, ever mentioned anything like this to any player I worked with. I worked with a lot of players in my time, and you can ask all of them. It never happened.
“In the last two games there were two situations where Sadio Mane had a foul situation. There was a handball [against Southampton] and another situation [vs Newcastle] where Sadio didn’t go down. If people say he’s diver or whatever, it’s just not right.
“Against Newcastle we had a picture where the goalie is on the ground and has both arms around Sadio Mane’s legs. He didn’t go down, he tried to score the goal. I didn’t speak to him and say ‘why didn’t you go down?’
“If Sadio needs to go down, he goes down. If not, then not. It’s natural. It’s not the player who should make a penalty decision, it’s the ref.”
He added: “After the Southampton game, the thing I really tried to understand was how people living on another planet see it – that the handball was not handball, and the Sadio Mane thing was not a penalty.
“I think it was Mr Dermot [Gallagher, former referee] on [Sky Sports’] Ref Watch, and he said ‘no handball, and no penalty’ and you think ‘hmm, obviously I am wrong and they are always right!’
“I don’t want penalties which are not penalties. But if there’s a penalty it would be nice if they whistle it!”