Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he is no Sir Alex Ferguson and has not been playing mind games in the build-up to Sunday’s visit of Manchester United.
Following the 1-0 defeat at Southampton 12 days ago, the Reds boss flagged up the disproportionate number of penalties United are winning compared to his own side.
Klopp’s comments are still being analysed and interpreted – by the likes of former referee Mark Clattenburg – almost two weeks later but the German rejected suggestions he was trying to win a psychological advantage ahead of their top-of-the-table clash.
“Am I surprised that somebody is talking about what I said about the Southampton game? No, I’m not,” he said.
“But I’m not Sir Alex, and for different reasons. When he (Clattenburg) said we tried something with mind games, I was speaking directly after the Southampton game.
“Between this moment and then we had another game (at Aston Villa) and I didn’t think for a second about the United game in that moment.
“But before the game against Southampton, I saw the stats about the penalties, and that’s what I mentioned.
“When people like Mark Clattenburg now are speaking 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.”
Since the start of last season the Red Devils have been awarded 20 penalties, twice as many as their arch-rivals, in all competitions and since Klopp took over in October 2015 the tally is 41-30 in the Premier League in United’s favour.
United striker Marcus Rashford revealed on Friday when Jose Mourinho was manager at Old Trafford he told the England international he had to be more “savvy” in winning spot-kicks.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been criticised by some pundits for going down too easily, so has Klopp ever told his players to be more streetwise inside the area?
“I can 100 per cent honestly say I never mentioned something like this to any player I have worked together with,” he added.
“I have worked with a lot of players in my time and ask all of them, it never happened. That’s it. We just didn’t speak about it.”
There have been a couple of incidents recently in which Klopp felt Sadio Mane should have had penalties.
“Sadio Mane had a foul situation (against Southampton) which was a penalty for me, but it’s not important because I cannot whistle but I can say my opinion,” he said.
“There was the handball, and there was another situation where Sadio didn’t go down and that’s why I said that when people still say he’s a diver – it’s just not right.
“The game before against Newcastle, we had pictures where the goalie is sat 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 tell him ‘Why didn’t you go down?’. We didn’t speak about it.
“Sadio knows (if he’s been fouled). If Sadio feels he has been fouled, he goes down. That’s how it is. If not, then not, obviously.
“It’s not the player who should make the decision whether there be a penalty or not. It’s the referee who should make the decision.
“I don’t want penalties that are not penalties. But if there’s a penalty, then it would be nice if they whistle for it as that’s part of the game.”
Klopp will assess Joel Matip in training before deciding whether to start the centre-back against United at Anfield on Sunday after he missed three matches with a groin problem.
Midfielder Naby Keita, however, will not feature having not played since December 19 due to an ongoing muscle problem.
“Naby is not ready for involvement. Not a big thing but it is like when players in the past came back from injuries, because of the amount of games and the situation of the squad they had to play and there was a little injury again,” he added.
“Now we have to put on the brakes and let it settle properly.
“At the moment we have alternatives in midfield so we really try to give him all the time he needs to get 100 per cent fit. He is not in contention for Sunday.”