What Could Conte Bring to Manchester United?

Antonio Conte could be the man to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as United boss, with rumours hotting up that the Norwegian could be sacked following Manchester United’s traumatic 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

There has been a plethora of reports surrounding Solskjaer and the current situation within the United dressing room of late, claiming that the players doubt the ability of the man in charge, and that he is not able to challenge Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp.

The whole club is hurting after their humiliating defeat to Liverpool and murmurs of Solskjaer’s exit have accentuated following the result, particularly with sources close to the players claiming that they believe Solskjaer is not good enough tactically for United.

Of course, the respect for the man who sealed United’s treble win in Barcelona in 1999 is still ever-present and things are very unlikely to turn as sour as they did when Jose Mourinho was at the helm, but the feelings are starting to grow that Ole is not the man Old Trafford needs at this stage.

One of the leading candidates that could replace the Norwegian is Antonio Conte, who is currently without a job, and several bookmakers have named the former Chelsea and Inter boss as the favourite to be the next permanent United manager.

Conte’s last job was with Inter, following their Scudetto-winning campaign, which was their first title for 11 years, ending Juventus’ run of nine consecutive titles. The Italian has also let it be known that he would be interested in taking over at Old Trafford, despite the preference being to join when he can have a full pre-season, as well as a say in transfer activity.

United would be the exception, however.

Conte certainly has the CV that United would expect from one of the world’s top managers, claiming titles in both England and Italy, with confidence in him to challenge Pep, Klopp and Tuchel in the Premier League.

Of course, he was victorious in his first campaign in the Premier League with Chelsea, and also picked up an FA Cup win in his second season. Ultimately, he was sacked at Stamford Bridge for his 5th place finish in his second season, missing out on Champions League qualification.

The Italian’s time in England was a strange one, he certainly gave Chelsea the success that they were after, not only delivering a Premier League title, but also claiming a number of impressive records along the way. He became the first manager in history to win three consecutive Premier League Manager of the Month awards and also set a new Premier League record for most wins in a single season, winning 30 out of 38 games.

However, he only lasted two seasons at the Bridge, largely due to his 5th place finish during the 2016-17 season. The Premier League is probably the most competitive league in the world and his dismissal certainly seems harsh. Conte took over a Chelsea side that had finished 10th in the season prior to his title-winning first season in charge.

We should also not take his achievements with Juve lightly, his three consecutive Scudetti preceded successive seventh-placed finishes before his arrival in Turin. Conte also has experience in international football and before his time as Italy boss, the Azzurri had failed to reach the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. Conte was able to set them on the right path, leading them to eventual quarter-finalists at Euro 2016, succumbing to defeat against Germany on penalties.

Italy wanted him to stay but Conte was set on returning to the hustle and bustle of club management.

However, we cannot ignore the abrasiveness that comes with Conte, but every top man in their field has an ego and will take the alpha male approach. If anything, it should be seen as a good thing, especially if he was to take the reins at Old Trafford. There is a certain need of arrogance that comes with the demands as United boss, as well as dealing with the big personalities of some of the players in the squad such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.

There is a concern that Conte may not get on with his superiors, with previous conflicts over transfer activity. This has given the high ranking officials at United doubts whether he is the man to take charge with him famously saying that he is not an ‘ass-licker’.

Personality clashes have been far from absent, thinking back to the falling out with Diego Costa, but perhaps it is unfair to link that to the manner of Jose Mourinho and the way in which he has departed clubs in the past. Conte has the ego for United and could have the ability to back it up, unlike Jose who seems to have lost his touch.

The Italian has left his clubs in great stead after his departures. Conte was able to give Inter their first Scudetto victory in 11 years, as well as finish as runners-up in the Europa League, and his DNA still runs through Inter. They are performing fairly well so far this season, despite losing star players in Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi over the summer, and his lasting impact has been present within this season’s team.

Praise on his player development should also be noted, particularly at Inter. Alessandro Bastoni has credited Conte to his dramatic rise in performances as the 22-year-old continues to grow into the three-man Inter defense alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan De Vrij. He was also able to get the best out of Lukaku, who scored 47 league goals in just 72 Serie A appearances over two seasons, before his €115 million return to the Premier League at Chelsea.

Tactically, expect Conte to implement a 3-5-2 formation, with him often using a variety of variations of the system, as well as creating a steeliness at the back. This could be significant for United, considering their defensive woes, and perhaps he could get the best out of their expensive back line of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw. However, it would be interesting to see how Conte would do this at United and whether he would once again look to a three man defense, perhaps utilising Victor Lindelof or Luke Shaw as an auxiliary centre-half.

United fans will look to their next three games, with the whole world putting Solskjaer under even more scrutiny, as he looks to bounce back against some tough opponents in the coming weeks. The Red Devils make the trip to North London on Saturday up against Spurs, before heading to Bergamo to face Atalanta, and then returning back to Old Trafford to host cross-city rivals Manchester City. 

Antonio Conte could be the man to take United to the next level and he certainly has the credentials to do so. It may be only a matter of time before Solskjaer is sacked and the Italian makes his return to the Premier League.