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Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg believes Manchester United's players are being "clever" by initiating contact in the penalty area.

Since football restarted in June United have been awarded 18 penalties in all competitions, four more than any other English side.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has only seen his side given six spot-kicks in that time, and the German has pointed the finger at the large disparity between the champions and the current league leaders ahead of Sunday's meeting between the pair at Anfield.

Clattenburg believes that is an attempt at 'mind games' from Klopp, although he does concede that the Liverpool boss has a point when it comes to United's penalties.

"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," Clattenburg said in his column for the Mail Online.

Paul Pogba won a penalty for United in their recent victory over Aston Villa
(Image: Getty Images)

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"I have watched United closely this season and analysed each of their 11 penalty awards.

"There are as many as five where I believe contact was invited or even initiated by the United player.

"Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood are the players involved.

"They are, in many ways, being clever.

"Once there is contact and the penalty is awarded, VAR will rarely overturn the decision.

"Notice, too, that more players are going down in what referees call the 'dead zone' in the penalty area, a position from which they have little chance of scoring.

"Rashford did it against Newcastle when he was heading out of the area and took the chance to go to ground under a loose leg from Jamal Lewis."

The last penalty awarded in a Liverpool vs Man Utd fixture came four years ago when James Milner converted from the spot at Old Trafford after a Pogba handball.

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