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‘Focused’ Antonio Conte comes clean on Man Utd doubters by shifting Tottenham attention

Antonio Conte Tottenham manager during Premier League clash against Wolves

Antonio Conte has insisted once more he is enjoying his work at Tottenham Hotspur, explaining why he never became Manchester United manager instead.

Conte will come up against Man Utd with Tottenham on Saturday evening. Having been tipped by some pundits as an ideal candidate for the United manager’s job, only to not get it, it could be a chance for him to show them what he is capable of.

After the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier in the season, United appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager. Some felt they should instead have gone for Conte on a permanent basis by acting earlier.

Others disagreed, denying that he fit within the ethos of the club. Arguments either way were in vain when the Italian instead took the reins of Tottenham towards the start of November, a few weeks before Solskjaer’s sacking.

But the debate has raged on beyond then, especially with United still struggling for consistency under Rangnick. What’s more, Conte has sometimes raised concerns about the situation he finds himself in at Tottenham.

However, he has now reaffirmed his focus on his current club, when asked about his doubters from a United perspective.

Explaining the chain of events, he said at the pre-match press conference (via Football.London): “Honestly, I think that when United decided to sack Solskjaer, I signed for Tottenham.

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“I enjoyed to do this, because at that moment, I found this situation very good for me, to work in modern club with fantastic stadium and training ground, with a big task to try to build something important, to build something competitive for the future.

“And then I signed for Tottenham, it happened after I signed, but honestly, I was very focused, and I am so focused on the Tottenham job, that I didn’t read this. I didn’t read this.

“The present is Tottenham, for me. I am enjoying a lot to work with this club, with these players. We are trying to improve, to raise our level; this is my target in this moment. I repeat: I am enjoying doing it.”

Manchester derby dissected

Conte’s opponents go into their upcoming clash on the back of a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. There was a lot of fall-out from the derby defeat, including comments coming back to the club’s failure to appoint Conte.

But the Spurs boss saw varying aspects come to light in the Manchester derby. He insisted there is no shame in losing to City after giving his interpretation of how the game unfolded.

Conte explained: “First of all, to play against Manchester City is not easy for every team. I consider City in this moment the best team in the world. They have the best coach in the world, fantastic players, they are working for many years together.

“To play against City, to get points against City, is not simple. For United, for Tottenham, for Liverpool, for Chelsea, for every team. I think I consider this a game apart.

“In the first half United played also a good game, because they played high intensity. They tried to put pressure on Manchester City, but it wasn’t enough because Manchester City then in the second half they played very well.

“It was very difficult for Manchester United to continue to press high, to give pressure, to keep the same intensity of the first half. Then City exploited the characteristics of their players and they got three points.

“But I listened to what Pep said, ‘it was maybe the best game that we played’, when he was in City. He said this, that it was the best level that City reached with him in this game. It means that City played an outstanding game and United tried to do their best.

“But City for sure, I repeat, is a team that to play them is not simple.”

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Conte credits world-class Kane

The game could also be another big platform for Harry Kane. Tottenham’s star striker has been in a somewhat similar situation to Conte recently; he insists he is happy at the club but there are fears his future will be assessed in the summer.

Kane is reportedly on the radar of Man Utd as they look for a world-class centre-forward. After finding his form recently, the England captain belongs in that category, according to his club manager.

Conte said of Kane: “I think that every single player when you start to play football in the moment that you finish your career, and you have space for improvement.

Harry Kane clapping after a Tottenham game in December 2021

“Every single player is lucky to have this opportunity, because, during your career, you can have many, many experiences, difference experiences, to learn a lot, to improve your baggage.

“About Harry, we are talking a world-class striker. I am very lucky to have a player like him, to work with him, because I always said we are talking about a fantastic player, but at the same time he is a fantastic person.

“He is always available to work, work hard, give example to the other players. He shows me every day the will, desire to improve himself, to try to become stronger, stronger, stronger. I think he can become the best striker in the world.”

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