Conte: Man United's 'strange' season proof of Premier League quality

‘In England you can sleep and finish in the relegation zone or out of Europe’: Antonio Conte says Man United’s ‘strange’ season is proof of the Premier League’s quality and the size of the task facing Erik ten Hag

  • Antonio Conte says Manchester United’s season has been ‘strange’ because they strengthened their squad after finishing second
  • Tottenham boss warns Erik ten Hag you can’t ‘sleep’ when managing in England
  • Conte comes up against his former Inter Milan player Christian Eriksen
  • Italian says it’s a ‘pleasure’ seeing Eriksen play again after cardiac arrest 

Antonio Conte has suggested that Manchester United’s ‘strange’ decline this season is proof of the task Erik ten Hag faces at Old Trafford.

United appointed the Dutchman on Thursday following a difficult year under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Ragnick.

It comes after they finished second last season and then made a number of high-profile signings including Cristiano Ronaldo.

‘This season United improved the squad with Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s strange, because last season they had second place and they improved the squad. You are going worse than last season means it’s not so easy, especially in England,’ Conte said.

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte takes training this week ahead of facing Brentford

‘Many teams have to pay attention because in England you can sleep and finish in the relegation zone, or to finish out of Europe. For sure in England for the manager it’s a big job for every manager because the competition is very high.’

Spurs sit three points ahead of United in the race for the top four, with Arsenal and West Ham also chasing the final Champions League place. Conte’s side are currently in pole position but speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brentford, the manager said: ‘This race, the team that is able to do less mistakes from now until the end can earn the possibility to play in the Champions League next season.’

Arsenal’s midweek win at Chelsea means Thomas Tuchel’s side now have only a five-point buffer on fifth-place but Conte insists: ‘I don’t think Chelsea is in this race. They are in this moment on a different level… we have to fight with Arsenal, they showed yesterday they are in good form, Man United, West Ham and Wolverhampton.’

Erik ten Hag has been confirmed by Manchester United as their new manager for next season

United have struggled to build on a second-placed finish last season and currently sit sixth

Conte said it will be a ‘pleasure’ to see Christian Eriksen face his Tottenham side following his harrowing cardiac arrest.

Conte with Christian Eriksen at Inter Milan

The Italian coached the midfielder at Inter Milan before his collapse.

‘I’m very happy to see him to play football again. In June it was terrible, those images were terrible for everybody. We suffered a lot for him and his family. I had the opportunity to meet him when he just arrived in Brentford, to speak to him and his family.

‘We are talking about not only an important player, but a great person and a great man. I wish him and his family the best for the future.

‘To see him tomorrow for a game will be a pleasure for me. It’s incredible… To see him playing again makes me very happy because I know football is his life. To have this opportunity is great for him and his family because now they come back to have a normal life.’

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