Cristiano Ronaldo vetoed Antonio Conte as a possible Manchester United manager back in October.
The Manchester Evening News revealed at the time the United hierarchy was ‘not keen’ on Conte and Ronaldo’s own reservations about Conte were fed back to the board.
United are finalising their process of appointing the Ajax coach Erik ten Hag as manager and have not consulted the players. It emerged in early February the majority of the United squad favoured Mauricio Pochettino.
A high-level source told the MEN last week a deal for Ten Hag was ‘basically done’. The MEN revealed Ten Hag was United’s preferred candidate on March 16 and a source said he has been their main pick for ‘a while’.
United were confident of attaining Ten Hag in the summer as far back as January and the 52-year-old’s release clause is a meagre £1.7m. The MEN also revealed in January United were aiming to secure their next manager before the end of the season.
Ronaldo’s future at United is uncertain amid the likelihood of the club’s failure to qualify for the Champions League next season. Ronaldo, who is under contract at United until next year, has not played in the Europa League since October 2002, when the competition was called the Uefa Cup and he was a 17-year-old at Sporting Lisbon.
Sources close to some United players said Ronaldo was holding the dressing room together in the wake of the tumultuous 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool on October 24 but the Portuguese did not conceal his dissatisfaction with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes sought reassurances from Ed Woodward the club would sack Solskjaer in the aftermath of the disastrous 4-1 hammering by Watford on November 20 and Mendes quickly recommended Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui. Baseless reports linking Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo’s former coach at Real Madrid, with United were a tactic to appease an increasingly concerned Ronaldo.
Conte, a free agent until November, did not foresee any managerial change at United after Solskjaer signed a three-year contract in July but was open to taking over after United’s back-to-back Premier League defeats to Leicester and Liverpool in October.
Tottenham appointed Conte three days after Nuno Espirito Santo’s last match in charge, a 3-0 home defeat by United on October 30, which was Solskjaer’s last win.
Spurs have risen to fourth in the Premier League table and are six points ahead of United. Tottenham’s likely finish above United would raise further questions about the decision-making at United.