Antonio Conte has been linked with the Man Utd hotseat as pressure mounts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Italian has a proven track record of getting the best from Paul Pogba
It is easy to forget that Antonio Conte was the one who first unlocked the potential of Paul Pogba at Juventus.
The Frenchman moved to Italy on a free in 2012 and became a leading light in Turin, eventually returning to Manchester United for a club record £89m in 2016.
Pogba was integral for a Juventus side that won four successive Serie A titles and reached the Champions League final in 2015.
At United though the midfielder has failed to regularly produce the type of form he showed so often in Italy.
First Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have found it difficult to fit Pogba into a system that best compliments his obvious quality, but also covers up for his flaws.
Many of those flaws lie in the defensive side of his game. Solskjaer has eventually opted to play Pogba on the left of the attack, rather than in midfield.
On occasions where the Frenchman has been deployed centrally United have often been exposed – this dates back to the first few games of his second coming at Old Trafford.
At Juventus, in a team full of veteran quality, Pogba grew steadily. Alongside the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, the young Frenchman blossomed.
The now 28-year-old’s apparent lack of defensive understanding was rarely – if ever – apparent during his time in Italy.
Conte, whether through a well organised system or impressive individual coaching, was able to mentor Pogba in a way that made him an asset defensively.
He even highlighted those qualities after Juventus beat Torino back in 2014.
“Pogba was definitely more solid in midfield, he fought for every inch defensively and I think this was a very important game for him tonight,” Conte said.
“He’s got great potential and could be a great player both offensively and defensively for Juventus. That is me saying this, remember I used to be up and down the field myself in my playing days.
“Paul can fulfil his potential and become a great champion. It’s our duty to make him grow in the right way in order to understand the game and adapt to different situations.”
Such defensive compliments are yet to be bestowed on Pogba in England.
Pressure is mounting on Solskjaer, first and foremost, following another defeat at the weekend. To make things worse Conte, winner of league titles at three different teams, is a man out of a job.
The Italian has succeeded in England with Chelsea back in 2017.
So not only is Conte a credible candidate for United’s board, but he has a proven track record of getting the best from the biggest investment in the club’s history.
A Pogba in full flight would certainly take the Red Devils up a gear, with his talent undeniable.
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If the Frenchman can play in central midfield then it also fixes another, rather expensive, potential problem.
Solskjaer had several areas he want to address in the summer – he got his defender and a winger but missed out on a man in the middle of the park.
Already that is haunting them, with teams playing through United, just as Leicester did in their 4-2 win.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have both been touted as men who could solve the team’s problems.
Hiring Conte however could do all that for a fraction of the price, with the aforementioned duo likely to cost north of £60m.