Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be on the brink of losing his job at Manchester United with Antonio Conte one of the main contenders to replace him, but what have the Italian’s two recent title-winning sides taught us about what he could bring to Old Trafford?
If Antonio Conte ends up becoming Manchester United manager then you can expect fireworks.
The combustable Italian is known for his fiery nature, but also his ability to pick up trophies as he has proven during his time in both his home country and in the Premier League.
Conte won three Serie A titles in three successive seasons with Juventus at the start of the last decade, before following that up with the Premier League at Chelsea in 2016-17 and then Serie A again with Inter Milan last season.
But if Conte did replace him then what would he offer?
We’ve taken a look at those Chelsea 2016-17 and Inter 2020-21 teams to see what sort of plans he could implement at United.
A shake-up at the back
Ever since successive defeats Chelsea suffered to Liverpool and then more damagingly Arsenal at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, playing a back four has been anathema to Conte as he has preferred fielding three centre-backs.
That immediate switch led to a stunning 13-match winning run that effectively sealed the Blues the Premier League title, as David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta were usually utilised as the back three.
At Inter Milan this approach continued, at it was Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar and Alessandro Bastoni who were the usual trio last season as Conte secured the Serie A title – his fifth top-flight success.
Repeating this at United would, you’d think, mean choosing three from Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, but although Solskjaer has occasionally switched to three at the back that isn’t a system he often stuck with.
Maguire has played it before with England though, and Varane is good enough to adapt to any system.
Conte might also like a new addition such as Skriniar or Bastoni to complete a solid trio, or he might have another solution from within.
A move for Aaron Wan-Bissaka?
Such a move would also place a lot of emphasis on Conte’s wing-backs getting forward and being creative.
At Chelsea, the Italian surprisingly rejuvenated the career of Victor Moses as he made 34 appearances at right wing-back in the title-winning season, with Marcos Alonso making 31 on the left.
In the 2020-21 Inter team right wing-back Achraf Hakimi featured in all but one of the club’s Serie A matches, with Ashley Young among those who did stints on the left.
All of those players are very attack-minded of course, and that could spell a chance in approach for United’s £50million right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, for whom the forward-thinking part of the game doesn’t come naturally.
Wan-Bissaka could find himself used as Conte’s right-sided centre-back though, particularly as he isn’t likely to get much chance under him further forward.
On the other side Luke Shaw could play the left wing-back role, although he could again face some competition.
Much-needed midfield menaces
No Inter midfielders played more often in Serie A last season than Nicolo Barella (36 appearances) and Marcelo Brozovic (33).
Both of whom bring an all-action approach that United often struggle to replicate, with the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay often left wanting on the big occasion, despite the latter’s clear promise.
Of course Conte’s Premier League-winning Chelsea side had N’Golo Kante in the middle of midfield during what was his first campaign after signing from Leicester, and although the Italian wouldn’t perhaps be able to find anyone to match the Frenchman’s work-rate – because who does? – he would surely look to freshen up an area that sorely needs it.
A rude awakening for Ronaldo?
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Chelsea 2016-17 were powered by the goals of Diego Costa, who scored 20 in the Premier League, while Romelu Lukaku bagged 24 in Serie A as Inter won the title last season.
The pair clearly share some similarities as players, and one of them is a willingness to lead the line as a focal point for their sides.
Can you say Cristiano Ronaldo does that?
The Portuguese is said to have had reservations about Conte’s tactics when he was rumoured to be joining him at Juventus back in 2019, but given how things have unravelled under Solskjaer would Ronaldo at least be willing to give his approach a go?
You can almost imagine the sparks flying already, but perhaps the inclusion of a figurehead up top – maybe Edinson Cavani to begin with – would help Ronaldo in the short-term?
Although if that happened then he might be required to do some running…