Manchester United v Liverpool match in pictures
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job may be safe for now but failure to deliver at Tottenham could spell the end of his reign as Manchester United boss. There is a sense that the Norwegian could look to shake things up in one final roll of the dice when he names his starting XI at Tottenham.
The enthralling Champions League comeback against Atalanta offered proof that United’s players were still playing for the manager but the message could not have been more different a few days later when Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford.
It’s understood the dressing room is now split on Solskjaer, meaning we could see a show of loyalty from the former United striker when his Red Devils side takes to the field in north London.
Those who he is no longer prepared to count on are likely to find themselves on the bench with Solskjaer now in danger of drowning in deep waters.
Should United pull the trigger, Conte is ready to cut short his break from management to jump straight back into a new challenge at Old Trafford.
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And if he does land the role, we can expect huge changes to both the system and personnel almost immediately after his appointment.
Conte has always favoured a back-three system, whether that be the 3-4-3 he used at Chelsea or the 3-5-2 that saw him guide Inter to the Scudetto last season.
Either way, United are not short of options and the Italian is expected to call upon several players who have been deemed surplus to requirements under Solskjaer. This could be a fresh start for everyone.
In goal, David de Gea would be expected to keep his place with Dean Henderson set to push for a loan move in January.
At the back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka – a clear favourite under Solskjaer – could surprisingly find himself dropped.
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That’s because Conte is likely to favour using three centre-backs in Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof.
Conte had huge joy from his central defence at the San Siro that consisted of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni.
Unlike other coaches, Conte is not one to play players hugely out of position, which may not bode well for £50million man Wan-Bissaka.
Although United could return for Kieran Trippier – who would be perfect for Conte’s system – in the summer, Diogo Dalot could get the nod at right wing-back.
It’s a role he knows well and the Portuguese international is the kind of figure who could turn out to be an unsung hero like Victor Moses, Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian.
At left wing-back, Luke Shaw is expected to keep his place following his heroics at Euro 2020 in the same position but Alex Telles could also benefit from a change of system and the appointment of Conte.
In midfield, it could be Donny van de Beek’s time to shine if Paul Pogba does not extend his contract and Inter were reportedly interested in signing the Dutchman before he joined United, meaning Conte is a fan.
His passing and ability on the ball could prove handy alongside old school midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic, who was a regular in Conte’s 2016/17 Premier League title-winning Chelsea side in 2016/17.
It means another Solskjaer favourite in Scott McTominay – plus Fred – miss out but given Pogba’s previous relationship with Conte at Juventus, there is surely a chance he could sign a contract extension and play a huge part under his former boss.
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Ahead of Pogba (depending on if he stays) or Van de Beek and Matic in the starting XI is the undroppable Bruno Fernandes, whose qualities and influence is likely to see Conte opt for a 3-5-2 as opposed to the 3-4-3.
That could spell bad news for the wide players including Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho – although there is no guarantee this would be Conte’s line of thinking.
Nonetheless, the tried and tested duo of Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo could be let loose in attack.
Conte is said to believe United have the quality to be successful, permitting he is able to put his own tactical spin on the side and the Italian is now waiting by the phone as he sets his sights on the job.
Straight away, this new-look, robust United side looks a force to be reckoned with and there is no doubt Conte will get them winning football matches again…
Man Utd’s potential XI under Antonio Conte: De Gea; Maguire, Lindelof, Varane; Shaw, Matic, Pogba/Van de Beek, Fernandes, Dalot; Cavani, Ronaldo.
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