Sir Alex Ferguson has been proven right about Antonio Conte amid Manchester United links – George Smith


Manchester United’s experiment has failed.

After turning to Ralf Rangnick, a man that had that had only been a manager for two out of the last ten years, to salvage their season and to try any guide them to a top-four finish to secure Champions League football for next season, United now face the grim reality of missing out on Europe altogether. Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Everton was the latest reason for why United’s supporters won’t be rushing out to buy the season review DVD.

In a season that has featured too many embarrassing performances and disappointments to list, the defeat on Merseyside felt like a new low. Rangnick is not to blame for all of United’s current woes, not by any stretch of the imagination, but he has failed to get the best out of a talented group, even though it is fair to ask if anyone else could have done any better in the circumstances.

READ MORE: Only nine Manchester United players might be truly committed in this shambolic squad

This group of players, not for the first time, has let a United manager down; it happened under Jose Mourinho, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now under Rangnick. So, therefore, in that sense, it does confirm that the players are to blame for United’s continued demise. But with the greatest of respect, United have failed to appoint an elite coach since sacking Mourinho in December 2018.

Figures such as Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte have been and gone when United ought to have made inroads for either of them. Conte, as revealed by the Manchester Evening News less than 24 hours after the harrowing 5-0 defeat to Liverpool back in October, it was open to taking charge at Old Trafford in the event of Solskjaer being axed.

The prospect of him taking charge gauged a mixed reaction. He was out-of-work at the time and was in the shop window waiting to be selected.

It appeared to be an opportunity United couldn’t turn down. However, Solskjaer held on for a few more weeks, by which time Conte had been installed as Tottenham Hotspur’s new head coach.

Since then, although Spurs have experienced a few bumps in the road and been warned by Conte that he needs financial backing from the club’s hierarchy or they risk losing him, they have been on an upward trajectory, so much so that they now appear to be the favorites in the race to clinch the final Champions League berth. In recent weeks, following an initial adaptation period, Spurs have started to play and perform in a manner that reflects Conte’s characteristics and mannerisms of him; flamboyantly and lively.

United, meanwhile, are heading for the finish line at a pace so slow that even Norwich City could end the campaign with more of a flourish – and they look destined to be relegated. The point is, Conte has lifted Spurs’ spirits and performance levels in such a way that he has shown United missed a trick in not turning to him when he expressed an interest in the role.

Gary Neville raised doubts about him suiting the United way and said that he was not the “right fit.” Hindsight can often be a wonderful thing in football, but has Neville been left with an egg on his face?

Conte has rejuvenated Tottenham, raising understandable questions about whether or not he could have done the same at Old Trafford. However, how long is a piece of string? The situation has that feel to it.

But Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps, would have expected to have been treated to better than what he has seen from United in recent months if they had turned to Conte. That is because the Scot, back in 2017, waxed lyrical about the job the Italian had overseen at Chelsea.

“Fantastic, you see his energy on the pitch,” Ferguson told Sky Sports, speaking five years ago. “There’s a true saying that the team mirrors the manager, and that’s what they’ve done with him.

“His team have stayed top of the league for so long. They lost to Arsenal and Liverpool early on, but since then they’ve been up.”



Tottenham Hotspur are beginning to thrive under Antonio Conte.

Ferguson was not wrong, was he? Conte’s energy levels and flamboyant management style have translated onto the pitch as far as Tottenham’s performances and results have come in recent weeks. It was always going to take time to acclimatise to his methods and style of play, but Spurs and now reaping the rewards, winning their last four games, scoring 14 goals in the process.

Of course the resources and tools would have been a lot different for Conte had he taken charge at Old Trafford, but would he have struggled as much as Rangnick? It is an impossible question to answer, but you would be inclined to say no, considering their past experiences and achievements in management over the last decade.

Furthermore, surely it is no coincidence that the clubs that currently make up the Champions League places are managed by elite-level managers? Conte, again, has shown his capabilities to step in and transform a situation.

Ferguson recognized his qualities from the Italian’s time at Chelsea and the latter is threatening to repeat that at Spurs, even if winning the title remains several hurdles away. But, let’s be truthful, they are far closer than United are.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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