“Your job now is to support your new manager." These were the departing words of Sir Alex Ferguson to a teary-eyed crowd of 75,572 Old Trafford spectators.
David Moyes may have landed the dream job for any football manager, but the harsh reality is that the former Everton gaffer could be drinking from a poisoned chalice rather than a cup of joy.
Moyes will indeed find success at Manchester United, but he will almost certainly not equal that of his predecessor. Fortunately, no-one expects him to, but from the outset Moyes’ reign feels like one big anti-climax. Even when it comes to personality, Moyes’ more introverted style could have fans reminiscing wistfully about Ferguson’s watch-tapping, gum-chewing antics.
Firstly, before the season even begins, Moyes must endure the ordeal of endless transfer sagas and ducking and diving. Cristiano Ronaldo denied rumours that he has signed an extension to his contract at Real Madrid, with speculation mounting that the Bernebeu side might be willing to part with their Portuguese star in order to raise funds for Spurs’ Gareth Bale. If Ronaldo were to make a sensational, Mourinho-esque return to his old stamping ground, Moyes would be guaranteed goals, but would find himself with the difficult task of rotating Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez around the new addition.
Nani looks set to be heading for the exit, and Ronaldo’s compatriot has been underrated. Not only has he provided some crucial goals, he has allowed United to play a much wider game, and injected pace into what was an ageing side when he arrived. Moyes will not be able to call on the experience of Paul Scholes, who followed Alex Ferguson into retirement, and fellow old boy Ryan Giggs may well only have one year left.
Jose Mourinho was rumoured to be interested in the job when talks on his return to Chelsea stalled, but may be breathing a heavy sigh of relief. The weight of the world will be on Mourinho’s shoulders at Stamford Bridge, but the Special One is already universally accepted by Chelsea fans. Moyes, on the other hand, must win over United fans, who have come to expect nothing but the best.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Moyes utilised United’s vast transfer kitty. He worked with limited resources at Everton, and may find it difficult to adjust to a club with such financial clout, as Mark Hughes did at Manchester City.
Moyes is undoubtedly one of the top managers around. But the horrible truth, that may be about to dawn on Old Trafford, is that Ferguson is irreplaceable. At one level, fans accept that and do not expect trebles from their second successive Glaswegian gaffer. In reality, though, on Saturday afternoons, the pressure will start to build very quickly. Moyes has a truly unenviable prospect of filling some very big shoes in the Old Trafford dugout.
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