Manchester United’s victory over Spurs in the battle of the crisis clubs seems to have lit the fuse that led to the Londoners parting ways with Nuno Espirito Santo.
However, the nature of the victory eased the pressure on fellow manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the noise around his United struggles being turned down a notch.
United had spent much of the previous week being broadly linked by various sources with out-of-work super coach Antonio Conte.
It is a quirky little irony then that the Italian now seems destined to be parachuted into a season-saving mission at White Hart Lane and not Old Trafford.
The Athletic has revealed the boardroom concerns that led to the Red Devils passing up on the former Chelsea coach’s services – despite huge external pressure to make a move.
It’s reported that, “Conte told associates there had been no contact from United – zero groundwork done despite Solskjaer’s reign sliding into desperate territory.”
Perhaps most concerning is the belief that Conte was viewed as, “…too confrontational for the corporate structure of acquiescence that permeates the club.”
It’s claimed that Jose Mourinho’s tempestuous tenure at Old Trafford has cast a long shadow, with the Reds’ hierarchy keen to avoid appointing a similarly combustible character.
Conte’s well-documented history of falling out with higher-ups is thought to have marked him out as being cut from the same tainted cloth as Mourinho.
Despite their reluctance to tread a similar path with the Italian, there is an acknowledgement that the wrong result against Spurs could have made the panic button too tempting to avoid.
It’s said, “Had Solskjaer failed to arrest United’s form then…the clamour (for Conte) would have grown.
“Whatever concerns…when faced with a losing team and restless players, bringing him in would have made football sense and been an easy sell for United’s commercial engine.”
With no approach from United, it’s clear that Conte was unwilling to wait around on the off-chance that United’s situation worsened enough to make him a viable saviour.
Although opinions about the club’s direction have proved divisive, most fans would surely agree that the manager’s position should be a football matter and separate from the commercial side.
It’s worrying then, that Conte’s personality and commercial appeal are reported as being of equal importance to putting the groundwork in place for a contingency plan.
In fact, the belief that the struggling team is still not the absolute first priority – after all the talk of restructure and cultural reboot – could be enough for some fans to dust off the green and gold.
Worrying then. But hardly surprising.