Over the last 24 years we as United fans have been truly blessed. Sure, he went through some rocky patches at the start, but from the moment Mark Robins scored a goal to save his job in the 1990 FA Cup 3rd round, (now Sir) Alex Ferguson hasn’t looked back, and has guided United to a two-decade period of success unmatched in the history of this or any other club.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and with Sir Alex now 69, it is surely only a matter of time before he feels he’s done everything he can, and unplugs his now famous “hairdryer”.
So who can replace such a giant of modern football management? Just who can take on the pressure of managing the biggest club in world football? In the second of a 5-part series, I examine the contender who would perhaps cause the biggest stir- David Moyes, a man many have touted as SAF’s possible replacement……
David Moyes, 43, is a rising young manager in the English game, a man who first burst onto the scene with Preston North End, before arriving in the Premier League with Everton. Moyes’ first few years at Goodison were characterised by their inconsistency; Moyes would guide them to a top-5 finish one season before narrowly avoiding relegation the next.
What cannot be argued, however, is Moyes’ youth policy. Throughout Moyes’ time at Goodison, the club has produced special (if infrequent) talents, with the best (and, perhaps, most well-known) being Wayne Rooney. The main talent to come through the system in recent years is defensive midfielder Jack Rodwell who, incidentally, has been linked with United for some time.
A difficult financial situation has constantly forced Moyes to shop at the bottom end of the transfer market, although some of his finds have been little short of sensational; Tim Cahill, the powerful attacking midfielder, was signed for just £2.5 million, Mikel Arteta, the midfield maestro, was signed for just £3 million, while strikers such as Yakubu and Louis Saha were signed for little more than £12 million in total. Other signings include Sylvan Distin (£5 million), Marouane Fellaini (£15 million: a rare expensive purchase) and left-back Leighton Baines.
One of Moyes most inspired signings has proven to be Phil Jagielka, signed from newly-relegated Sheffield United in the summer of 2007 as a central midfielder and effectively converted to one of the best centre-halves in the league.
In his early Everton days, the focal point of Moyes’ attack was the powerful Scottish targetman Duncan Ferguson. By throwing long balls up to Ferguson and surrounding him with midfield runners, Moyes provided his team with a clear plan, one which invariably worked, with Thomas Gravesen providing the midfield solidity.
In recent times, Moyes has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation, while also occasionally utilising a 4-4-2 formation.
Moyes most successful team of recent times was the 2008/09 FA Cup final team, which ended United’s hopes of a clean sweep of trophies in a semi-final shootout. This was a team which contained the defensive solidity of Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott, before the latter left to play for moneybags Manchester City, where he has proceeded to discover just how comfortable the leather backed seats of the Eastlands dugout really are.
One of the more interesting/intriguing aspects of Moyes tactics has been his employment of the aerially powerful attacking midfielder Tim Cahill as a support striker, due to a lack of striking options. In fact, at one point, Moyes’ striker combination was made up of attacking midfielder Tim Cahill and defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini, with his tactics amended to match their power in the air.
Moyes has guided Everton into Europe on a number of occasions, reaching the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) a number of times. His one season in the Champions League (after guiding Everton into fourth spot) was ended with defeat in the first-qualifying round, while several UEFA Cup excursions have ended with defeats in games Everton were expected to easily win.
One of the major problems with Moyes is that he is unproven in a major job, and, while no managerial job is without pressure, has no track record managing at the biggest clubs where success is expected every season, having worked at Everton (and Preston) where a top-8 finish is considered a successful season.
Another issue is Moyes poor European pedigree, a very, very important factor when considering who should replace a man who has won two European Cups during his time at United, surpassing even the great Sir Matt Busby.
There is little doubt that Moyes is an adept and able manager, but can he really hack it at a major club such as United? It would appear Moyes has a major rebuilding job on his hands at Everton and much may depend on his performance as Everton manager in the years leading up to Ferguson’s retirement at United, and whether he can revive an Everton team that, in recent years, has fallen short of what is expected of them, often underperforming for a team containing such talent.
· Able manager, proven in the Premier League.
· Used to operating with a small transfer budget.
· Adept at spotting a transfer market bargain.
· Tactically astute.
· Capable of organising and inspiring a team.
· Understands how to get the best out of players.
· Poor European pedigree/record.
· May be overwhelmed by the pressure of managing such a huge club as United.
· May have a selling attitude when it comes to his best players.
· Unaware of what it takes to manage a fight for trophies on all fronts.
· Unused to managing a large squad of players.
Next time- Pep Guardiola
Follow Josh on twitter @UnitedJosh