A number of historic records fell on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford.
Liverpool experienced their biggest ever victory away to Manchester United. It was the first time United had ever went into half-time four goals behind in Premier League history. Mohamed Salah became the first-ever player to score a hat-trick away against United in the history of the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position as head coach was safe before the contest, but the Norwegian now appears to be under extreme pressure given the high-profile nature of losing 5-0 to Liverpool.
Antonio Conte is being tipped as a possible replacement for Solskjaer, with the Italian understood to be open to assuming the managerial role if Solskjaer was to depart.
The 52 year-old is said to be concerned about the club’s structure and direction, and it is also reasonable to question his suitability to the squad that has been assembled.
A Premier League winner who has also won the Serie A four times with two different clubs, Conte is fixed on the concept of a back-three system.
Juventus, Chelsea, Inter Milan and the Italy national team have all followed the theme of three-at-the-back under Conte, with 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 as his two most-used variations.
During his two-year spell in charge at Stamford Bridge, the Blues employed a back four across their first six Premier League matches under Conte before Arsenal bagged three goals in 45 minutes against them.
3-4-3 was adopted for the second period of the game as well as the rest of the season, and Chelsea proceeded to win 27 of their next 32 contests in England’s top-flight before lifting the title in May.
Upon inspection of the squad that has been assembled at United, it is curious to consider how Conte would deploy his players if he was appointed.
Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane would almost certainly occupy the three roles in the centre of his defence, with Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka likely selected as wing-backs.
Conte has a history of retraining forwards and midfielders to perform as wing-backs considering his work with Victor Moses, Ashley Young and Ivan Perisic to name a few, but it remains to be seen whether he would deem any of United’s forwards to be suited to such a change.
In midfield, Nemanja Matic thrived under Conte while at Chelsea. The Serbian is now 33 years old, but he could fit the mould as a suitable partner for Paul Pogba.
On the other hand, the Frenchman could form part of a central trio as he has previously done under Conte. The Italian coach signed Pogba as a 19-year-old from United in 2012, and maximised his contributions by fielding him to the left of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal.
Those decisions in the midfield department would impact the make-up of the attack, with two or three roles available. Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro formed a trident for Conte at Chelsea whereas in Milan last year, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez formed a pairing for Inter more often than not.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Donny van de Beek could potentially be vying for two spots in Conte’s attack.
Overall, despite Conte’s elite credentials, his back-three preference could damage his prospects of taking the reigns at Old Trafford in the near future.