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Manchester United reportedly turned down the chance to appoint Antonio Conte as their new boss back in 2018 due to fears over his ‘combative’ management style.
The pressure on under-fire boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has intensified over the past 48 hours in the wake of their humiliating 5-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.
Solskjaer, who has been in charge since November 2018 when he replaced Jose Mourinho in the dugout, has been defiant over his future and insisted on Sunday he would not resign.
But it is believed the club’s senior figures have met to discuss Solskjaer’s future, just four months after handing him a new deal until 2024.
Man United’s managing director, Richard Arnold, is understood to have cancelled all appointments to hold talks with co-owner Joel Glazer, who is based in Florida, on Monday night.
Conte, who won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2016-17 in addition to his four Serie A titles with Juventus and Inter Milan, is one of the leading candidates to replace Solskjaer should the Norwegian be relieved of his duties.
The Italian coach has been unemployed since leaving Inter Milan in June over disagreements over player sales after Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku were sold to PSG and Chelsea respectively.
Former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, a three-time Champions League winner, is also thought to be in the running.
Who should Manchester United appoint if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is sacked? Comment below.
Ajax coach Erik Ten Hag and Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers are the other names in the frame as part of a four-man shortlist drawn up by the United board.
The Guardian report that Conte would consider the chance to take on United’s project if he was approached, though there have been no talks as of yet.
But there are some doubts over whether United will hire Conte after passing up the opportunity to appoint the 52-year-old in 2018.
According to The Express, the tactician was viewed as too 'combative', something United were looking to steer clear from amid the toxic atmosphere at the club created under Mourinho.
Conte’s success at the top level is impressive but the disciplinarian has been known to fall out with either his players or the club’s hierarchy over transfers.
He famously told Diego Costa to leave Chelsea by text message after the striker had flirted with a return to Atletico Madrid — just weeks after helping the Blues win the title.
Conte’s frosty relationship with director Marina Granovskaia also saw him publicly criticise the club’s business in the transfer market and he was sacked in 2018 after winning the FA Cup.
He was linked with the United post seven months later, but went on to take over at the San Siro instead.
United, meanwhile, turned to Solskjaer, initially handing him the job on an interim basis before giving him a three-year deal later on the 2018-19 season.
The club have progressively improved their league position under the 48-year-old, finishing second in the Premier League last season.
But they were defeated by Villarreal in the Europa League final, leading major figures in and outside the club to question if Solskjaer has the pedigree to win silverware.
Solskjaer described the defeat to Liverpool — United’s worst against the Reds for 96 years — as his “darkest day” as a manager.
But despite a poor run of form, he believes he is edging closer to achieving his goals with this United side, having failed to win a trophy in his reign to date.
“I do believe in myself, I do believe that I am getting close to what I want with the club,” he said after the game.
Man United face Tottenham next in the Premier League on Saturday, but there is no guarantee Solskjaer will be the man leading the team at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
- Premier League
- Jose Mourinho
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
- Manchester United FC
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