VAR: Liverpool and Manchester United's Premier League penalties this season assessed

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Liverpool and VAR are being bounded about every newspaper and social media site right now.

The reigning Premier League champions couldn't shake off the controversy during their 1-0 defeat to Southampton on Monday night as dodgy decisions seemed to rear their head every other minute.

Kopites were well within their rights to question why they weren't awarded penalties for either a blatant handball by Jack Stephens and what looked to be a clear foul on Sadio Mane.

VAR controversy

It's a situation that has many Liverpool fans questioning whether there's an agenda against them this season with a league-high 12 VAR decisions going against them.

In fact, Jurgen Klopp even fired shots at Manchester United in the wake of the defeat with their north-west rivals having garnered a reputation for winning bucketfuls of penalties.

James Pearce quoted him as saying: "Manchester United had more penalties in two years than me in five and a half years - but [we have] no excuses for tonight."

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Liverpool and Man Utd penalties

And as United and Liverpool fans go at it across the Twittersphere, Sky Sports wanted to apply some context to the debate by uploading every league penalty the two clubs have won this season.

It's a fascinating montage, which you can check out below, but we wanted answers to all the conspiracy theories, so went through all 11 spot-kicks to work out whether they were the right decisions.

It's worth noting that we're making our judgement calls less on the minutia of the rules and more on the standards we want to see from the Premier League in 2021 - check out our verdicts here:

1. Liverpool vs Leeds United (12/09/20)

Verdict: Correct decision (just)

In my ideal world, this wouldn't be a penalty because it underpins how far the handball rule has fallen, but Ben White's arm was always asking for a trouble with his arm sticking out that much.

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2. Liverpool vs Leeds United (12/09/20)

Verdict: Correct decision

Poor Rodrigo was too busy ensuring his arms were behind his back that he forgot that there are other ways to concede a stonewall penalty, namely chopping Fabinho down like a tree.

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3. Manchester United vs Brighton & Hove Albion (26/09/20)

Verdict: Correct decision

There have been some shifty handball calls this season, don't get me wrong, but Neal Maupay dug his own grave here with a wholly unnatural arm position that was punished after the final whistle.

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4. Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur (04/09/20)

Verdict: Correct decision

Yup, no-brainer, this one. Davinson Sanchez should never be defending this lamely in the box in the Premier League, never mind when it's against the penalty-winning machine that is Anthony Martial.

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5. Manchester United vs Newcastle United (17/10/20)

Verdict: Incorrect decision

Justice really was served when Karl Darlow made the save because Marcus Rashford went down under barely any contact here. We can't expect defenders' tackles to no follow-through at all.

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6. Liverpool vs West Ham United (31/10/20)

Verdict: Correct decision

I really want to say that this wasn't a penalty because the overreaction from Mohamed Salah is simply embarrassing, but Arthur Masuaku didn't half take a chunk out of him to provoke it.

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7. Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion (21/11/20)

Verdict: Incorrect decision

At first glance, this looks like a stonewall penalty, but replays of Darnell Furlong doing everything in his power to dodge Juan Mata's pass from just two yards out shows this decision is simply brutal.

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8. Liverpool vs Manchester City (08/11/20)

Verdict: Correct decision

Another pretty straightforward call, truth be told, with Kyle Walker signing his own death certificate the moment he allowed Mane to pass him before tackling far too forcefully in the area.

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9. Manchester United vs Leeds United (20/12/20)

Verdict: Correct decision (just)

I'm letting this one go through gritted teeth because it's a harsh one when you consider the Leeds tackle initially hits the turf, but at the end of the day, any sort of trip ends in trouble these days.

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10. Liverpool vs Fulham (13/12/20)

Verdict: Incorrect decision

As much as I want to say this correct considering Aboubakar Kamara tepidly turned his back, what do we actually expect the bloke to do here - saw off his arms? The new handball laws, I swear...

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11. Manchester United vs Aston Villa (01/12/20)

Verdict: Incorrect decision

Do you know what? I might have said this was a just decision before the Mane incident at St. Mary's Stadium but for better or for worse, I've got to deem this as too soft on grounds of inconsistency. 

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Four incorrect, seven correct

Now, yes, before you through the rulebook at me, I intended this to be more of an exercise on whether these are the sort of incidents we really want to be seen as warranting penalties.

Besides, the majority of the qualms with VAR and contemporary officiating don't surround compliance with the rules, but the regulations themselves and how they manifest themselves in games.

As a result, you can't help feeling at times that simply owning arms or making any sort of tackle in the penalty area is an automatic penalty these days - and it's desperately sad to see.

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So, if anything else, I've probably been too lenient in saying that three of United's penalties and one of Liverpool's spot-kicks feel far too soft for my liking.

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