Sadio Mané has acknowledged Pep Guardiola’s claim that he is a diver means the spotlight will be on him in Liverpool’s top-of-the-table showdown with Manchester City on Sunday but admitted he would “dive again” if it resulted in a penalty being awarded.
The Senegal forward was accused of “sometimes diving” by the City manager after Liverpool’s last‑gasp victory against Aston Villa on Saturday – a suggestion that led Jürgen Klopp to accuse his opposite number of being “fixated” on his team. Guardiola has since retracted his claim, but with Liverpool holding a six-point advantage over the champions, Mané believes the City manager was attempting to raise the temperature before the biggest match of the season so far.
“I think it’s a bit clever from him to get the attention of the referee but I will just play my football like I’m always doing,” he said. “I don’t pay attention to what he’s saying because it’s part of football. It doesn’t make anything for me. Even though I saw him commenting about it, what he said, for me, I think it’s positive …”
Asked if it sounded as if Guardiola was worried about facing a side who have won 10 of their first 11 Premier League fixtures, he said: “Maybe. I don’t know. You guys know more than me. The only thing I can say I will be for sure ready for the team, to give everything possible, and to help my team. If it could be a penalty for sure I will ‘dive’ again. If the dive will give me a penalty then I will do it to get it back. Why not? But what Jürgen said is correct. I do not dive.”
Mané was booked for simulation against Villa on Sunday before scoring in stoppage time to maintain Liverpool’s lead at the top. That was the third time since the start of the 2015-16 season that the 27‑year‑old has been cautioned for diving but he insisted the referee, Jonathan Moss, could easily have given the decision the other way.
“There was contact, for sure,” Mané said. “Maybe it was not a penalty and he didn’t give it, and he gave me a yellow card. To be honest I don’t have any problem about it. For sure, it can happen in football and we have seen many people, some diving and get penalties, some got a penalty and the referee didn’t give it. That’s football. You have to deal with it.
“[I will keep doing] like I’m always doing. It’s what I want to keep doing. If I get a penalty, yeah it’s a penalty. If no penalty, no penalty, but [it will never] change the way I’m playing or the way I’m doing my things.”
Michael Oliver will take charge of the game on Sunday in an appointment that may please Liverpool supporters given they have never been beaten in the 18 previous matches he has officiated at Anfield. Klopp’s side have been awarded three penalties – one more than City – this season, including for the 94th-minute winner against Leicester, which was given by Chris Kavanagh for Marc Albrighton’s challenge on Mané.
Liverpool have not faced City since the 2-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium in January that was the last time they were defeated in the league – a run of 28 matches. They have also gone 45 games unbeaten at Anfield since losing against Crystal Palace in April 2017, including the 0-0 draw with City last season in which Riyad Mahrez missed a late penalty.
“It will be very different because we learned a lot from our last games against City,” Mané said. “I think I can say we play every kind of game this last two years so I don’t think the game will have any effect on us to be nervous. But for sure it’s an extra motivation for us to play against them, especially at home, and to do everything possible to win the game. It will be really, really important for us to get a positive result and we will be ready, spot-on from the first second until the last.”