Beating Nuno Espirito Santo gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer respite - now it’s taking Antonio Conte option off table

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·2-min read
Beating Nuno Espirito Santo gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer respite - now it’s taking Antonio Conte option off table
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Antonio Conte’s impending appointment at Tottenham comes after flirtations with Manchester United fell on deaf ears.

The Italian is on the brink of taking over from the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo, but last week United’s hierarchy were made aware of his interest in a move to Old Trafford, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position still in serious question.

Sources at the club insist there was never any interest in Conte, despite talks being held over Solskjaer’s future following the humiliating 5-0 defeat to Liverpool. The Norwegian retained the support of key figures including Ed Woodward, Sir Alex Ferguson and Richard Arnold, which ensured he remained in charge for Saturday’s crucial win against Tottenham, which signalled the end for Nuno.

While Solskjaer’s long-term position remains uncertain, United opted against making a hasty decision to replace him with Conte, who is out of work and available to start immediately.

And on Monday morning as news emerged of negotiations with Spurs, Old Trafford sources were adamant that they have remained behind Solskjaer all along.

Conte’s expected appointment at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium does remove arguably the most eligible candidate to succeed Solskjaer, who will be under immense pressure if he suffers defeat to either Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday or Manchester City at the weekend.

With an international break following the Manchester derby, United will have time to seriously consider if he has taken the club as far as he can. But the question is who would be available to replace him midway through the season if Conte is no longer an option?

Zinedine Zidane has admirers at Old Trafford, while Mauricio Pochettino has long-been considered among high-ranking figures a future United manager. Thomas Tuchel was being monitored before he took over and transformed Chelsea last season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The overwhelming desire within the club is to see Solskjaer succeed – and that has been the reason why he has been given such firm backing even during periods of crisis during his three-year tenure.

With Woodward set to step aside as executive vice chairman by the end of the year, he is also reluctant to sack a fourth manager in his eight years in charge.

But there was a sense last week that he came as close as he has yet to ending Solskjaer’s reign, with pressure mounting following the significant investment of the summer, which saw Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo added to a squad that finished second last season.

It was thought the possibility of missing out on Conte spark United into action, much like when Ronaldo looked set to join City in the summer. But it would take dramatic change of plan for them to try to intervene at this late stage.

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