Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp reaction
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If Manchester United are as terrified of a “hitman” manager as Gary Neville believes they are, then Antonio Conte will have Richard Arnold hiding behind his desk. With four Serie A titles, a Premier League title, and an FA Cup, Conte is a serial winner with a full trophy cabinet just to really affirm his status as a world-class coach.
But this is a manager who once said in a conversation with Thierry Henry on Sky Sports, he would “kill” a football player who disobeyed his orders. While Conte’s comments were, hopefully, made in jest, it was a cultivating, razor-sharp warning to all players present and future that disobedience in Conte’s kingdom will be met with a zero tolerance policy.
Or, perhaps more likely, it served to show just how quickly Conte’s faith and trust in a player can turn if they fail to fall in line. If history has taught us anything, those players will likely be thrust into the wilderness, never to be seen in the club shirt again.
One only needs to ask Diego Costa, who was banished by Conte barely weeks after firing them to the Premier League title.
The fiery forward hammered home 20 Premier League goals and eight assists for the Blues, as Conte’s side broke record after record on their way to the title.
At the time, the Italian’s side put together the longest winning streak (13 matches) in Premier League history, broke the record for number of wins in a season (30) and recorded the second-highest points tally in Premier League history (93).
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However, Conte still booted Costa out of his squad in ruthless fashion. According to Spanish outlet AS, Conte informed the former Spain international that he would be sent packing in a blunt text message.
It reportedly read: “Hi Diego, I hope you are well. Thanks for the season [sic] we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.”
Costa is also claimed to have just responded “OK” but the Brazil-born striker could not have been further than that state. Chelsea were furious with Conte’s actions, as they felt his text had cost the club millions in potential transfer fees for the former Atletico Madrid star.
The way he was dispatched also trickled down to the playing squad, who also felt Costa should have been dismissed in a face-to-face meeting.
Whether it is in his teams sweeping counter-attacks or his stone cold man management style, unpredictability is a common theme in Conte’s spells in management.
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But if there was to be any doubt of Conte’s managerial prowess and nous, it would be from the man whose Chelsea career he ruthlessly cut short.
“We [Conte and I] had problems off the pitch, but I think he is a really good manager,” Costa told ESPN. “I have no hard feelings.”
Conte can anger players, frustrate players and even banish them from the footballing wilderness. But his managerial ability is unquestionable.
Even for a man who has worked at Juventus, Inter Milan and Chelsea, his ruthlessness and convictions would be tested to the limit if he was installed as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s replacement.
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Many have posed the question pondering how Conte would react to Cristiano Ronaldo if he is not pressing the frontline or tracking back as instructed.
It is a very fair question, considering the legendary Portuguese star currently has the least amount of pressures out of all of the Premier League forwards.
Then there is Paul Pogba, a player Conte worked with in Turin who now comes as a package deal with his outspoken agent Mino Raiola. Would Conte jettison him to the footballing wilderness if his contractual situation is not resolved?
United would surely be opposed to their manager sending another infamous text message telling the Frenchman to pack his bags, as it would risk producing similar fireworks as it did at Stamford Bridge.
There will always be reasons not to appoint a manager and Conte may not be an easy man to work with. But neither was Sir Alex Ferguson — and he did quite well at United.
Still, it serves as a warning to Man United if they choose to go with the disciplinarian to save them from their current demise.
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