There was a time in the not too distant past when Manchester United were title contenders and serial penalty getters.
Penalties were awarded to United so regularly that discussion concerning perceived bias from the officials became entrenched in mainstream media narratives.
Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes was brandished as nothing more than a glorified penalty merchant by an army of vehement social media warriors.
Those particular conversations weren't restricted to fans, pundits and journalists, however.
After his Liverpool side were denied two potential spot kicks against Southampton on 4 January, Jurgen Klopp claimed that United are awarded a disproportionately high number of penalties.
"I hear now that Manchester United had more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half years. I’ve no idea if that’s my fault, or how that can happen."
His comments preceded Liverpool's clash with United at Anfield on 17 January and, naturally, dominated the pre-match build-up.
Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg even became embroiled in a war of words with Klopp.
He wrote two Daily Mail columns about the former Borussia Dortmund manager's comments and the psychology of taking charge of games at both Old Trafford and Anfield, claiming that 'there is more of an aura around Klopp and Liverpool than there is United and Old Trafford.'
By this stage, the fire was fully stoked and the subliminal message was clear.
And from Klopp's perspective, his words have since had the desired effect.
Intriguingly, the penalties have dried up for United ever since Klopp took his concerns public.
According to Stretford Paddock presenter Joe Smith, United received 11 penalties in 25 games before Klopp had his say, which equates to a penalty every 204 minutes. That's a lot of penalties by anyone's standards.
And the juxtaposition with the ensuing trend after Klopp's intervention has certainly balanced things out.
The Red Devils have been awarded two penalties in the 16 games since, averaging one spot kick every 720 minutes.
Some may argue that the rate at which United were winning penalties before Klopp's comments was an anomaly, unsustainable and destined to tail off eventually.
That much may be true, but it's difficult to ignore just how dramatic the contrast is and label it as a mere levelling up process.
What is most alarming about the stats is that it reveals how easily the officials can be manipulated.
Media mind games have been at the heart of footballing spectacles throughout the Premier League era, but it's verging on impossible to measure just how deeply they impact performances of players and, in this case, the referees.
While Klopp's comments won't win him the Premier League title this season, they might just have stopped United from going toe to toe with the indomitable Manchester City.News Now - Sport News