Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has claimed that Jurgen Klopp's recent comments about Manchester United being awarded many penalties were a "blatant attempt to influence officials" ahead of the weekend's clash.
The Liverpool manager stated "United had more penalties in two years than he has had in five-and-a-half years" at Anfield after his side lost 1-0 to Southampton last week. However, Clattenburg believes Klopp's comments could possibly highlight his growing worries that the Reds might lose their grip on the Premier League title.
With their win against Burnley this week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side leapfrogged Liverpool to the top of the table ahead of their trip to Anfield this weekend. And while the former referee questioned the penalties United have been awarded this season, he also admitted that Klopp has little grounds for his argument.
"He sounds like a hypocrite if he is suggesting United's players are looking to win penalties," Clattenburg wrote in the Daily Mail. "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.
"I am the only referee to give three penalties to the opposition at Old Trafford, and that was for Liverpool, of all teams, in 2014. But David Moyes was manager — I'm not sure that would have happened when Fergie was there!"
Clattenburg added while United have won more penalties than Liverpool, there is no “conspiracy” playing out behind the scenes.
“Klopp was correct when he said United have won more penalties in two years than Liverpool have in his five and a half at Anfield. He was smart, because his comments could not get him into trouble with the authorities,” he said.
“But let's be clear: there is no conspiracy on the part of referees and officials. Was Klopp insinuating there is? Or was he suggesting United have players who are encouraged to dive? If his intention was the former, then I've got no time for that. It simply is not true.
“But if he was highlighting the ease with which some United players go down in the penalty area then, yes, I believe he was making a valid point. Even if it does ignore similar suspicions about some of his stars.”