Why 'Short-Term' Manager Antonio Conte Can Be Manchester United's Imperfect Fit

The Italian has been incredibly successful wherever he has been
08:00, 26 Oct 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on the brink, and it leaves Manchester United in a perilous situation. They have already ‘tried’ when it comes to big name managers - Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho both failed to transform them into title contenders and as a result, they appointed a club legend. 

This fear of swapping the Norwegian for an elite level manager, something it has transpired Solskjaer certainly is not, seems misplaced especially given the man who won Serie A last season, Antonio Conte, is out of work. 

But United fans on the whole, including pundit Gary Neville, appear to believe that the Italian is not the man to reinvigorate the club - should they dispense of the services of their current boss.  

"Jose was the best manager in the world and couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t bring Conte in to United. He’s not a fit for United,” Neville said on Sky following the damaging 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool. 

"I might be wrong but I don't think that he is. I think it would be wrong to sack Ole today. I sacked a manager after six games last season, it was the wrong thing to do, I should’ve let things breathe."

But this agenda that Conte would not fit in with this edition of United seems wide of the mark. At Inter Milan, he wrestled back control of Italian football from Juventus having won three Serie A titles himself in charge of the Old Lady, by taking the league championship away from Turin for the first time in a decade. 

His performance in Milan was exemplary from a tactical standpoint. Choosing to play his preferred 3-1-4-2 system, he utilised Ivan Perisic as a left wing-back and got the very best out of a dangerous strike partnership in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez as his side lost just three matches on their way to an impressive 91 points.

With the calibre of players Manchester United currently possess, including Cristiano Ronaldo who scored so many goals in Italy, it is clear to most onlookers that Conte would improve this team and get them competing with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and former club Chelsea. However, United’s squad at present does not seem that suited to a wing-back system and having spent £72m on Jadon Sancho - he could be one of several casualties if Conte was brought in. 

The Italian boss left Inter after two seasons, with the club citing cost-cutting reasons and the global pandemic as a reason for parting ways with the title-winning manager. Since then they have also been forced to sell top players such as Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi for big money as investment dwindled at the club. But that issue is never going to arise at Manchester United, who are one of the biggest clubs in the world and have already backed Solskjaer with £441m spent on transfers during his tenure so far. 

OleGunnarSolskjaerjpg

The money is there to spend, and surely it is better off in the hands of a serial winner rather than an inexperienced and so far trophyless manager? In his first season in the Premier League, Conte transformed a team that had finished tenth the previous campaign into champions, set a then-record tally of consecutive wins and became the first manager to win three consecutive Premier League manager of the month awards. 

His decision to switch to the 3-4-3 formation he became so famed for essentially won Chelsea the league, and perhaps this system could get the best out of United’s plethora of attacking components. Chelsea’s ‘great decline’ under Conte, which saw them finish fifth place in the league and win the FA Cup resulted in his departure after two years - but again he didn’t necessarily leave them worse than he found them even if he had a public spat with Diego Costa and was reported to have fallen out with Willian at the end of his tenure.

Conte isn't perfect, he has repeatedly shown that he has flaws upon leaving a club, but Maurizio Sarri succeeded his countryman finished third and won the Europa League the following season. Hardly the definition of a club in recession.

Conte has this reputation of spending two years at the club, working with large amounts of capital in the transfer market and delivering league titles and short-term success. But he won promotion with Bari from Serie B and dominated Serie A with Juventus for three years. In his one-tournament stint in charge of the national side Italy lost on penalties to Germany at Euro 2016 before he then won league titles in Milan and Liverpool. 

Antonio Conte is ideal for Manchester United, a club that has spent too long overspending and underachieving. So what if he doesn’t have ‘the United DNA’ - whatever that is in any case?  He will get them organising and more importantly, competing for the major trophies once again. Surely two years under Conte will leave United stronger than a further two years under Solskjaer. 

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