David Moyes understood the magnitude of the job he was taking on this season. There would have been no confusion about what was required of him, no doubt about the number of eyes watching him, particularly in rough seas. Crucially, there’s no getting away from the legacy of Alex Ferguson.
It’s why it’s a little difficult to understand the reasoning behind those who believe Ferguson’s presence at Manchester United games is a hindrance to Moyes, as if the club’s former manager is having one last go at the mind games. Can you really imagine someone at United, perhaps even as lowly as a steward patrolling the ground, asking Ferguson if he’d kindly leave the stadium and watch somewhere else because him being there is likely to put Moyes off?
I doubt Moyes is too concerned by Ferguson’s presence. Can’t we somehow manipulate this story into one of a show of support from Ferguson and Bobby Charlton? And yet even if the calls for Ferguson to take some time away while Moyes sorts the season out are heeded, what about that stand with Ferguson’s name across it in eye-shot of everyone in the stadium bar those sitting in it? The tributes, the trophies, even the players, are lasting memories of Ferguson and what he did for the club.
We’re not used to this strong showing of solidarity in English football. Maybe we are. Maybe we’re catching onto how things are done in Europe, but this Ferguson story is a fairly convenient one that helps to answer why Moyes has struggled this season.
There’s no doubt that Ferguson admired the model run at Bayern Munich. Former greats taking up seats of power at the club. Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. With Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt such pivotal figures in large parts of Ferguson’s success with Manchester United, he is looking for those names to replicate the structure at Bayern.
It’s why it’s hard to see any aggression in Ferguson’s continued stay at the club. Some feel he’s undermining Moyes by making himself available to the new manager. Yet any sensible coach coming into a club of that size and expectation would do well to look to Ferguson for advice. It makes sense to seek help and in no way threatens the authority of the current manager.
The recent image of Ferguson and Charlton at the Stadium of Light after United’s loss to Sunderland in the Capital One Cup was that of disappointment, but they wouldn’t have been the only ones to feel it. I struggle to believe that Moyes himself believes everything is going to plan. Would the United players on that day have performed better if Ferguson was at home? Would Moyes’ team-talk been clearer if their former manager wasn’t present? There’s simply no sense in the argument that Ferguson is having a negative impact on the current season.
As the man who strongly advocated the appointment of Moyes, the new manager will take a lot of positives from Ferguson remaining close by. Even if the Glazers do hold fire on the topic of dismissing Moyes, it would be understandable if such a thought entered the mind.
But Ferguson is a football man. He more than anyone else understands the demands of the United job. It’s an easy story to suggest he’s a negative influence, but one that doesn’t quite fit. Ferguson’s continued stay looks much more like a show of unity and support for the new era at the club.