Solskjær blames Klopp comments for Manchester United penalty count

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Ole Gunnar Solskjær has claimed Jürgen Klopp’s intervention regarding how many penalties Manchester United receive made a “big difference” to the number his team are awarded.

Liverpool’s manager said in early January that United in “two years” had won more penalties than his side had during his five and a half seasons in charge.

Solskjær, whose team host Aston Villa on Saturday, did not mention Klopp by name on Friday but said: “We just have to hope we get what we deserve. We should have had three pens in the last two games. There was a certain manager last year who was starting to worry about us getting penalties and after that it seems like the decisions are more difficult to give [to us].

“Surely I’ve seen a big, big difference since then on. But we just have to leave it up to the refs and hope that they will make the right calls very soon.”

The incidents Solskjær referred to came against West Ham in Sunday’s 2-1 league win when Cristiano Ronaldo was twice involved, and in Wednesday’s 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat by the same team, and featured Jesse Lingard.

After Klopp’s complaint United were awarded five penalties in 22 Premier League games across the rest of last season, having won six in the previous 16 matches. In Sunday’s game VAR was in use but what appeared clear penalty decisions were not granted. Solskjær was asked whether it was a concern that, in effect, two referees – the on-field and VAR officials – had failed to award United the kicks.

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He offered a wry response. “That’s quite an achievement actually,” he said. “But we’ve got the feedback [from Premier League] on the two West Ham league ones while the one in the cup – there was no VAR and anyone can make mistakes. As I said earlier on, there has been a shift since concerns were raised by another manager on how many penalties we get.

“I don’t think it’s my job to talk about the referees but of course we have to keep playing and you get the decisions you deserve.”

Managers are not supposed to comment on referees in the lead-up to a match but whether Solskjær’s stance will be viewed by the Football Association as an attempt to influence Saturday’s official, Mike Dean, is unclear.

Related: Marcus Rashford says Mourinho taught Manchester United how to win penalties

Ronaldo has scored four times in three matches since his arrival from Juventus, and Solskjær believes the 36-year-old may be able to operate at the highest level for four more years, at least. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he still played when he’s 40 – not at all,” he said. “The way he looks after himself is key and there must be some genes or DNA in there but he’s put every single ounce of energy and effort into becoming the player he is.”

Solskjær is clear that United cannot be over-reliant on the Portuguese’s goals. “Jesse has two, Mason [Greenwood] three, Bruno [Fernandes] four and Cristiano four – a good return from the forwards,” he said. “It has to be spread around, that’s for sure.”

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