Tottenham in tatters: Man Utd dodged a bullet by not appointing Antonio Conte

Comments (0)
Tottenham Conte Man Utd GFX.
The fiery Italian was many United fans' choice to shake things up last season, but the club made an inspired move by opting against bringing him in

October 30, 2021: Tottenham were hosting Manchester United and both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nuno Espirito Santos' jobs were on the line.

Solskjaer had just overseen a harrowing 5-0 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool, and the writing was on the wall for the Norwegian. In north London, his side overpowered Spurs, with goals from Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford ensuring Solskjaer lived to fight another day.

His opposite number was not so lucky. The defeat was the final straw for Daniel Levy and Nuno was sacked after only three months in charge.

🏆 TOP STORY: Haaland breaks Salah's goal record

📣 HAVE YOUR SAY: Is Lukaku the answer to Chelsea's scoring woes?

🚨 MUST READ: Arsenal couldn't, so can anyone stop Man City?

Spurs swiftly hired Antonio Conte, and 22 days after overseeing the 3-0 victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Solskjaer was let go by United after another humiliating defeat, this time to Watford.

With Conte no longer available, there was a serious shortage of top coaches on the market. United decided to adjourn their search for a permanent manager until the summer and install Ralf Rangnick, a sporting director for most of his recent career, as interim coach.

The results were disastrous. The players did not respect Rangnick, who Ronaldo would later claim to have never heard of, and United sunk to their lowest points total in 30 years in the Premier League.

Tottenham, meanwhile, staged a remarkable turnaround to clinch fourth spot and Champions League football.

At the time, the decision to keep faith with Solskjaer and allow Conte to go to Tottenham looked like yet another woeful move from United's hierarchy.

One year on, however, not hiring Conte appears to have been a masterstroke.

  1. Avoiding a short-term fix

    Avoiding a short-term fix

    Tottenham are now a laughing stock, having parted ways with Conte and then sacking his interim successor, Cristian Stellini, less than a month later.

    United, meanwhile, are enjoying one of their best campaigns since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement under Erik ten Hag.

    They have a trophy in the bag and are in a strong position to finish in the top four. They are six points ahead of Tottenham heading into Thursday's match, with two games in hand, and a win would practically doom Spurs' hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

    On the same day Tottenham were humiliated 6-1 by Newcastle, United were reaching the FA Cup final. The contrast in emotions between the two fanbases could not be greater.

    While Conte was a tempting short-term fix, Ten Hag was a bet on the future, and United's much-maligned sporting director John Murtough and chief executive Richard Arnold deserve a huge amount of credit for having the vision to see that and making the right decision.

  2. An antidote to Solskjaer's soft touch
    Getty Images

    An antidote to Solskjaer's soft touch

    But looking back to the chaos of last season under Solskjaer, it is easy to see why certain fans and pundits felt Conte was the right man to solve United's deep problems.

    The Norwegian had fostered a culture of acceptance of being second best. He had allowed the squad to become too comfortable. According to one report, he barely criticised the team after a shock defeat by Sheffield United which derailed their title bid in the 2020-21 season.

    To the chagrin of fans, he had also not put enough pressure on the board and the Glazer family to back him in the transfer market.

    To cap it all, in almost three years in charge, he had failed to win a trophy.

  3. Dragging teams back to glory

    Dragging teams back to glory

    The contrast between Solskjaer and Conte couldn't have been bigger.

    The Italian had won the league with practically every team he had coached, often dragging teams straight back to glory after years in the wilderness such as Juventus or Inter, or after a miserable season, as he did at Chelsea.

    He instantly raised standards, and he was never afraid to tell those higher up his true feelings.

    To United fans tired of managers being too passive with the Glazers, Conte was the perfect man to shake things up and lead the fightback.

  4. Ranting and raving only gets you so far

    Ranting and raving only gets you so far

    However, Tottenham have realised that, rather like Jose Mourinho before him, Conte leaves scorched earth wherever he goes. And what he might see as high demands are interpreted by others as a tendency to lose his rag.

    His ranting press conference after the draw with Southampton was the most flagrant example of him throwing his toys out of the pram and ultimately led to him leaving, but it was far from his first outburst.

    Many fans and pundits thought he was about to resign just three months into his tenure after defeat at Burnley, when he said he was not capable of improving the team and questioned whether it was right for him to take a salary from the club.

    Spurs’ players lived in constant fear of being laid into by the Italian, while fans constantly thought he was about to walk away.

    Even though they achieved epic wins over the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal, there was always a chaotic feeling to the team. And that is no platform to build on, as his miserable second season proved.

  5. Ten Hag strikes a balance Conte was not capable of

    Ten Hag strikes a balance Conte was not capable of

    United had already been seduced by Mourinho's winning record and then had to pick up the pieces of his divisive tenure. They were not about to make the same mistake with Conte.

    United, like Tottenham, pride themselves on their team playing attractive and entertaining football, and paid a heavy price for sacrificing their values in pursuit of results.

    Now, in Ten Hag, they have a manager with a track record of playing scintillating football and trusting young players, which is far more in keeping with the club's traditions than Conte's counter-attacking style.

    Ten Hag, though, is no shrinking violet and has restored discipline to the squad, taking a hard line with Ronaldo when he left a match early. He also dropped Marcus Rashford from the starting line up for being late to a team meeting against Wolves in December.

    And he has been hard on his players when they have let him down, such as after the 7-0 hammering by Liverpool and the crushing Europa League defeat at Sevilla.

    But he has struck the right balance between showing the players who is boss while retaining their respect. That is something Conte was not capable of.

  6. Kane wants out - could United pounce?

    Kane wants out - could United pounce?

    Whoever becomes Tottenham's next permanent manager faces a huge job rebuilding their squad, and money will not be in huge supply.

    They may also have to do without Harry Kane, who is becoming more and more disillusioned with the chaos at the club where he has spent his entire career.

    A player of Kane's talent and experience deserves better than to end his career without lifting a single trophy, which is looking increasingly likely if he remains at Spurs.

    Having failed to get the move he desperately wanted to Manchester City in 2021, United now looks like one of very few realistic destinations if he wants to leave Spurs but remain in England.

    One year ago, the prospect of joining United would have looked unwise. But Ten Hag is building something at Old Trafford, and the one thing he is missing is a world-beating centre-forward.Kane fits the bill and United looks once more to be an exciting club to be a part of.

    That's something you cannot say about Tottenham at the moment, and as United fans survey the wreckage, they can be grateful their club did not take the easy option and appoint Conte.