DANIEL MATTHEWS: Where Antonio Conte goes, trophies and records soon follow … his CV suggests he’s not staying long, but Manchester United desperately need a boost
- Antonio Conte is now the main candidate to replace the old Gunnar Solskjaer
- The Italian has not driven in English since his trophy-laden spell at Chelsea
- Conte arrives with a series of demands and previously rejected Tottenham
- Conte’s résumé certainly suggests he deals with fleeting visits, but United need a boost
Suspicion has proven to be a loyal companion since Antonio Conte first flirted with English shelters.
In 2016, Roman Abramovich was thought to have reservations about bringing the 52-year-old to Chelsea amid fears about the tactical suitability of Italian coaches.
Last summer, Tottenham was apparently concerned about Conte’s demands and his commitment to bleed the youngsters.
Antonio Conte is a proven winner and it makes sense that Man United is now linked with him
Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that warning signs would also be heard around Manchester United.
Even as black clouds rise over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Gary Neville insisted: ‘I wouldn’t take it.’ Not the correct “setting”, apparently. Nor is it the right time for another ‘hit man who comes in and does a job for two years’.
Conte’s résumé certainly suggests that he deals with fleeting visits; only once has he lasted more than two years in a club. The Italian’s demeanor on the touchline, meanwhile, shows that he is an intense, meticulous and combustible force. But as guns for hire go, are there better shots?
Where Conte goes, trophies and broken records follow closely behind. He restored Juventus as Italy’s dominant force, their 3,283-day reign as champions only ended last season, by Conte’s Inter. At Chelsea, his three-man defense ushered in a wave of imitation and reinvention.
“When Conte speaks, his words assail you,” Andrea Pirlo once said. They crash through the doors of your mind. An ‘allergy to bugs’ means that Conte’s wife Elisabetta routinely wakes up when her husband takes note of her brain waves in the middle of the night.
Andrea Pirlo (right) once noted that Conte’s words ‘go through the doors of your mind’
His players are trained in playing patterns, often 11 against none, never suffering fools. Gianluigi Buffon was once scolded for interrupting one of the many video analysis sessions. It does not matter that the title is already won.
If United does call, Conte won’t be cheap or alone. It will require a large support team. And what Conte wants, he gets. But.
At Juventus, Inter and Chelsea, problems arose from the clubs’ unwillingness or inability to deliver the signings he wanted. Uncertainty about Tottenham’s ambitions made Conte distrust as well. Even Abramovich proved to be less accommodating than he imagined.
United could be more than happy to accommodate you. This post-Fergie malaise has hardly affected his market power or willingness to dig into those deep pockets. Keep your end of the bargain and Conte will do the rest.
‘It’s time we stopped being bastards. Turning this ship around is not a polite request; it’s an order, ‘he told the Juventus players.
“We must return to the levels to which we belong, those that are written in the history of this club.” All that is required? ‘Follow me.’
If United does call, Conte won’t be cheap or alone. It will require a large support team.