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What would Antonio Conte’s first Manchester United lineup look like?

by Red Billy
Antonio Conte

Former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan head coach Antonio Conte is one of the favourites to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager should the Norwegian not survive the current crisis that has seen his side leak 11 goals in three games.

Fans are divided as to whether Conte would be a good fit for the club. He is known for his tactical acumen and motivational ability, which are arguably exactly what United need more of at the moment.

However, Conte favours either a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation and has employed three at the back consistently since the early days of his managerial career.

This generally cautious formation requires the use of wing backs rather than wingers, which is an issue that would be hard to resolve for the Red Devils, who are blessed with some of the best wingers in world football.

The back three of a 3-5-2 would almost certainly be Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane unless Conte felt inclined to give Eric Bailly a chance over any of them. It is possible that he will switch Maguire to the right and Lindelof to the left centre back positions. Solskjaer has always insisted on playing them in the reverse roles despite Lindelof being arguably far superior on the left.

In the left wing back position, Luke Shaw and Alex Telles are both strong options. But right wing back is another matter. Aaron-Wan Bissaka is probably not enough good going forward to excel in that role – despite having started his career as a winger.

This leaves Diogo Dalot as Hobson’s choice unless Conte attempts to convert a more attacking player such as Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford or Jesse Lingard into a wing back, which seems unlikely.

Bruno Fernandes would need to drop back to the deeper number 8 role in Conte’s system, probably partnered by Paul Pogba, with probably Nemanja Matic behind them as the only genuine defensive midfielder. The fact that Matic has played under Conte before at Chelsea might further tip that decision in his favour over the likes of Scott McTominay or Fred.

The formation would also probably leave poor Donny van de Beek on the sidelines again, although he could be rotated more frequently with Pogba, Fernandes or even potentially in the holding role against lesser teams.

This leaves the two forward positions, and there is quite a lot of competition for those spots, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial to choose from.

Whatever pairing Conte chooses, there will be a lot of talent, and ego, left on the bench.

Of course, it is possible that the Italian would adapt his system and revert to a back four at United. Trying to fit the current squad into a three at the back system could be seen as trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

But if he does stick with what he knows best, this is the kind of line-up we might expect for his first game:

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