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Moyes facing monumental task in taking over for Ferguson

by Christopher Davies

David Moyes has been constantly overlooked by England’s top clubs.

Since 2007, by which time Moyes had been in charge of Everton for five years, Chelsea have had five managers, Spurs and Manchester City three each.

For whatever reason, Moyes, chosen as Manager of the Year 10 years ago after his first season at Everton, the first of three such awards, has barely been linked with another job at home or abroad.

The media and his fellow managers have championed Moyes, wondering why he has not moved on from Everton where, on a shoestring budget compared with its rivals (a net spending of £4 million over the past five years), the Scot has kept the club competitive to the extent that, given the quality in the side, it has underachieved.

While winning the Premier League was a step too far, at Moyes’ own admission Everton should have landed a cup or two.

Now, at the age of 50, Moyes is set to take over at Manchester United, the biggest club in the world in many respects, after Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in English football, announced he is to retire later this month.

A man whose managerial CV has only one entry in the “honors” section — the Football League Second Division Championship in 1999-2000 (and no experience of the Champions League group stage) — is to follow Ferguson who has won 28 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier Leagues and two Champions Leagues. That is some act to follow.

Even though Ferguson is 71 and is due to have a hip operation this summer, there was no suggestion of a pending retirement.

Indeed, in his program notes last Sunday he wrote that “I don’t have any plans to walk away from something special.”

Three days later he announced he was to quit.

He was either being understandably economical with the truth or something happened behind the scenes.

Retirement is never a sudden choice unless the decision is made for you. The Glazer family, which owns United, is based in Tampa and leaves the day-to-day running of the club to chief executive David Gill, who is also leaving the club soon.

The idea that Ferguson, who had never given any indication that this season would be his last, was nudged towards the door seems unthinkable.

Yet David Meek, who ghosts Ferguson’s program notes, said: “There was a top summit [meeting] and the suggestion made. I don’t think it would have had to have been made forcefully. If he felt the owners no longer had 100 percent confidence in him I don’t think he would hesitate.

“It’s the next chapter to the story — did he go or was he pushed?”


THE DAY ALWAYS had to come, but the news is still sinking in. Sunday will see Sir Alex Ferguson in the Old Trafford dugout for the last time, his finale at West Bromwich on May 19.

Two more games and the legend is gone, though he is staying on as a non-executive director and club ambassador.

Ferguson’s record will not be broken because no club will again see a manager in charge for 26 years. A complex man of contradictions driven by an uncontrollable desire to make United the best, he has changed the face of English football.

If the Premier League is the most popular in the world, Ferguson can take the credit for that because United’s style has enhanced the game’s global brand in such a positive manner.

He has built, dismantled and rebuilt successful teams, never afraid — indeed almost thriving on — making hard decisions like showing David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane the door.

No manager will dominate the Premier League as Ferguson has, not just by being a serial winner but the sheer strength of his personality.

United’s latest title was not so much a victory for the team but the manager who made it his mission to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford after losing to Manchester City on goal-difference last year.

In Ferguson’s eyes that was not so much a failure as a sin.

Ferguson did whatever it took to win. If that meant intimidating, even abusing, referees then so be it.

If he had to put pressure on opponents, notably Liverpool, Arsenal and more recently City by some less than flattering comments bordering on abuse, so what?

He said he would not sell “that mob” — Real Madrid — a virus, but six months later sold Cristiano Ronaldo to them for £80 million.

His relationship with the media underlines his love of control which spilled into bullying. Few Manchester-based football writers have not been banned at some time, even for headlines or stories that were 100 percent accurate but which Ferguson would rather have not been printed.

He refused to speak to the BBC for seven years and is the only manager who does not attend post-match conferences for the written press.

Yet even the banned reporters acknowledge Ferguson has given them stories and exposure no other manager has. Whenever Ferguson speaks it is back-page news.

There will never be another manager like Sir Alex Ferguson, the good more than outweighing the bad and the ugly. 1,498 games gone and two to go.

Spared a thought for Wilfried Zaha, the Crystal Palace forward who in January agreed to join United next season but will never play for the manager who signed him.


FOLLOWING SIR ALEX Ferguson has been called the impossible job, yet taking over the champions of England is probably a little easier than the task facing the next manager of Wolves, who have plummeted from the Premier League to League One in successive seasons.

Manchester United is the biggest, best supported club in England and Ferguson’s legacy is a set-up geared for success.

We shall never know whether Pep Guardiola might have chosen United ahead of Bayern Munich because the timing was wrong, but David Moyes has everything a manager could wish for when starting a new job. All he has to do is to win a trophy every season.

Before that, he must deal with an unhappy Wayne Rooney who, frustrated at not being a regular any more, told Ferguson two weeks ago he wanted to leave. Ferguson has constantly maintained Rooney will be at United next season but then the manager said he had no intention of stepping down.

Moyes was manager of Everton when it sold Rooney to United. Since then Moyes successfully sued Rooney for comments made in the striker’s autobiography. I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall when the pair meet.


SO WHO BROKE the Sir Alex Ferguson retirement news?

While the Daily Telegraph claimed to have the story first, the Racing Post was probably the first newspaper over the finishing line though bookmakers Paddy Power have valid claims for the exclusive after tweeting on Monday morning, after heavy overnight betting, they had cut the odds on Moyes succeeding Ferguson.

On Tuesday morning, the Racing Post reported the significant betting on Moyes, yet such speculation on managerial movement is not unusual and usually off target.

This time some well informed and now richer punters in Manchester had obviously been tipped off and by Wednesday morning the odds on Moyes succeeding Ferguson had been slashed from 4-1 to 1-8.

By Tuesday afternoon the Manchester football writers were on the case, but the Telegraph decided to put the story on their web site about 8 p.m., thus claiming the “exclusive” which has caused journalistic civil war among hacks in the city.

Every paper had the story, the difference was that other media organizations did not want to release the news before it was in their papers, the old fashioned way of reporting.

Planet Internet has changed the way stories are broken and these days a journalist who tweets something a minute before anyone else hails it as an exclusive.


IT IS TYPICAL of Sir Alex Ferguson to steal the limelight from Manchester United’s noisy neighbors, as he calls City, who play Wigan Athletic in the F.A. Cup final on Saturday.

The buildup to the final has been dwarfed by Ferguson’s retirement — on Thursday the nine daily newspapers in England had a total of 175 pages devoted to the Scot.

Wigan could win the cup and be relegated in the same season; a more likely scenario is that Roberto Martinez’s occasionally brilliant yet usually brittle team will be two-time losers.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.