Liverpool vs Man Utd: Analysis of Premier League penalties reveals Reds are more reliant

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Manchester United and Liverpool are never far away from the VAR discussion.

We're barely two seasons into the Premier League being graced by technology more than ever, but there are still thousands of fans left tearing their hair out over the state of the league's officiating.

Liverpool fans have been some of the most vocal supporters about a supposed bias against them from VAR with their complaints amplified more than ever after the 1-0 Southampton defeat.

LiVARpool and VARchester United

United, on the other hand, have been bombarded with accusations because of their inordinate amount of spot-kicks, breaking the Premier League record last season for most penalties won.

As a result, Liverpool and United supporters have been going back and forth on social media ahead of their Premier League clash on Sunday that could have huge permutations for the title race.

However, before we reach that clash of the titans at Anfield, we couldn't resist joining the officiating debate and we specifically wanted to take a closer look at the distribution of penalties.

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How reliant are they on penalties?

If you're reading this article, then you're probably aware by now that we're imagining United and Liverpool's results if they weren't awarded any penalties at all in the league this season.

Now, yes, that system alone has its problems, but we're going for a simple subtraction to avoid any potential bias when taking on the impossible task of how the results would have been affected.

And well, spoiler alert, the results are pretty surprising, so check out how important each of United and Liverpool's penalties have been to their league campaign.

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Liverpool's league penalties

Result: Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United

Result without penalties: Liverpool 2-3 Leeds United

Point dropped: 3

Mohamed Salah converted two spot-kicks during the opening day win over newly-promoted Leeds, meaning that the Reds would have suffered a 3-2 defeat with their penalties subtracted.

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Result: Liverpool 2-1 West Ham United

Result without penalties: Liverpool 1-1 West Ham United

Points dropped: 2

Once again, it was Salah who was on point from 12 yards, kickstarting Liverpool's comeback against the Hammers, but they would have been forced to settle for a point without it.

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Result: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool

Result without penalties: Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool

Points dropped: 1

In a game that saw Kevin De Bruyne miss from 12 yards, Liverpool's draw at the Etihad Stadium hinged on Salah avoiding the same mistake, but it's sadly chalked off in our simulation.

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Result: Fulham 1-1 Liverpool

Results without penalties: Fulham 1-0 Liverpool

Points dropped: 1

One of the Reds' most disappointing results of the season would have been even more gutting if it wasn't for, you guessed it, Salah holding his nerve from the spot to rescue a late equaliser.

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Total points reliant on penalties: 7

Manchester United's league penalties

Result: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Manchester United

Result without penalties: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-2 Manchester United

Points dropped: 2

We can be doubly certain that United would have been forced to settle for a point in this alternate reality because it took VAR awarding a penalty after the final whistle to pull victory from the fire.

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Result: Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur

Result without penalties: Manchester United 0-6 Tottenham Hotspur

Points dropped: 0

I'm sure I don't need to qualify that Bruno Fernandes' penalty didn't make a blind bit of difference in one of United's most humiliating defeats of the Premier League era.

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Result: Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United

Result without penalties: Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United

Points dropped: 0

Yeh, quickly moving on because United's win at St. James Park marked Fernandes' only penalty miss in English football, but it wouldn't have been a game-deciding goal regardless.

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Result: Manchester United 1-0 West Bromwich Albion

Result without penalties: Manchester United 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

Points dropped: 2

Even if this wasn't a simple case of subtracting the penalty goal, it's hard to see a world in which United won this game without Fernandes needing two bites at the cherry from 12 yards.

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Result: Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United

Result without penalties: Manchester United 5-2 Leeds United

Points dropped: 0

In a role reversal of the embarrassing Tottenham defeat, Fernandes converting his spot-kick was inconsequential to the overall result with United scoring for fun at Old Trafford.

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Result: Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa

Result without penalties: Manchester United 1-1 Aston Villa

Points dropped: 2

In what was far from a vintage performance from the Red Devils, it took one of the most controversial penalties that United have won all season for them to get the better of a plucky Villa side.

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Total points reliant on penalties: 6

Liverpool more reliant...

Is the difference small? Yes. Is it impossible to tell for sure? Yes. But does it run contrary to the popular narrative on social media? You're damn right that it does.

As much as many of Liverpool fan's complaints with VAR this season are more than justified, perhaps they should slow down a little bit when they accuse United of relying on penalties.

Because although the Red Devils have picked up more spot-kicks throughout 2020/21, they haven't been as important to their tally of 36 points than Liverpool's have to their tally of 33. 

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So, in many ways, if United really are the standard for being accused of relying too much on penalties, then Liverpool deserve some flack for that scenario too.

Ultimately, though, you're hardly going to turn down penalties or miss them deliberately, so c'est la vie, but it only makes us more certain that spot-kicks will play a role at Anfield this weekend...

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