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Tottenham’s Antonio Conte shows Man United what changing coach mid-season can do

Tottenham Hotspur were struggling in ninth position, already five points from a place in the Premier League’s top four, when Antonio Conte was tasked with saving the club’s season last November. A month later, Ralf Rangnick began his role as caretaker manager at Manchester United with his team in seventh place and a three-point gap in fourth place.

With just over a month of the season to play, it’s clear that one of those appointments worked and the other clearly didn’t. Spurs are now three points clear of the chasing pack in fourth, while United are still seventh, but closer to eighth-placed Wolves than Tottenham, who are six points clear of failing side Ranknick.

United’s hierarchy are probably too busy finalizing their decision to sign Ajax manager Erik ten Hag to consider the irony of their decision to reject Conte and sign a manager more in line with their so-called DNA. to the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the latest. November, but the contrasting fortunes of Conte and Rangnick show that changing managers mid-season isn’t always a guarantee of a positive impact.

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United sources told ESPN in January that they overlooked Conte – who was out of work at the time after leaving Inter Milan – as Solskjaer’s replacement because he was too abrasive and demanding of its players. The view within the boardroom at Old Trafford was that the United squad would not take Conte’s very particular approach of issuing specific instructions to his players, that he would “overload them with ‘information’ and that the team needed a more cerebral coach – one who would treat them like the high caliber players they are meant to be.

When you take it out, this explanation for United’s decision not to hire Conte may actually mean that the former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan manager was too abrasive and demanding of his bosses and that, in reality, which is why United’s owners, the Glazer family, and the board chose to name Rangnick the Friendliest.

But as the season draws to a close, it’s safe to say United screwed up and Spurs are now reaping the rewards of their decision to dismiss concerns about Conte’s difficult style by trusting him to ensure that a team of underperforming players realize their potential.

Rangnick has won less than half of his 17 Premier League games in charge of United, with Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Everton extending the club’s dismal run to just one win from eight in all competitions – the win over Tottenham of Conte last month.

Conte, meanwhile, inspired Spurs to 13 league wins from 21 games, with just three defeats in that span. The Italian also managed to persuade his board to make changes in January, allowing him to offload Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso, and bring in Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski from Juventus . In just three months, Bentancur and Kulusevski have done more for Spurs this season than any of the outgoing players had achieved in the first half of the campaign.

Rangnick, on the other hand, allowed Donny van de Beek (Everton) and Anthony Martial (Sevilla) to leave on loan, but failed to persuade the board to sanction a move for Jesse Lingard. The former RB Leipzig manager hasn’t pushed for starters, despite needing a striker and midfielder, and United are now reaping what they sowed during the transfer window.

Conte’s personality, rather than proving negative as United believed, actually inflamed the Tottenham squad and pushed the club to make some crucial changes in January. The reverse has happened at United and a club whose so-called DNA is rooted in Champions League football is now in a battle with Wolves for UEFA Conference League qualification because they have chose Rangnick over Conte.

Tottenham’s Antonio Conte shows Man United what changing coach mid-season can docheek


Mark Ogden explains why Manchester United chose Erik ten Hag as their next manager.

Changing managers mid-season is not an exact science, especially when the recruiting club excludes the best candidates for reasons that others would not worry about.

Chelsea showed last season, by replacing Frank Lampard with Thomas Tuchel, that ignoring a negative reputation can spell success. Tuchel, fired by Paris Saint-Germain, was considered by many in the game to be as outspoken and tough as Conte can be, but the German delivered Champions League glory six months after taking charge and sources have told ESPN he is now so highly regarded at Stamford Bridge that the team’s recent blip in form will not threaten his position.

Had Tuchel been available when United sacked Solskjaer, it’s fair to wonder whether the Glazers would have looked elsewhere given he might not have met their particular demands for a new manager.

Eight Premier League clubs have changed managers this season – Watford have done so twice, replacing Xisco Munoz with Claudio Ranieri in October before sacking Ranieri in favor of Roy Hodgson in January. Watford are likely to be relegated, as are Norwich, who have seen only a marginal improvement in their fortunes since Daniel Farke was replaced by Dean Smith in November.

Aston Villa enjoyed an early rebound under Steven Gerrard, following his arrival following Smith’s departure in November, but the former Rangers boss has now lost 10 of 20 Premier League games and Villa are on a four-game losing streak.

Everton are still waiting to see if replacing Rafael Benitez with Lampard was worth it in January, with Lampard losing seven of 10 league games, but Jesse Marsch is already justifying his appointment in place of Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds in February after steering away the team from the relegation zone with three wins in six games.

Eddie Howe has also been a success at Newcastle, banishing relegation fears with eight wins from 20 since replacing Steve Bruce in November. But no new boss has done a better job than Conte – a fact Spurs appreciate and United would rather forget.


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