An impossible job. He’d been there 26 years.
He had his own statue in the grounds, and a stand in his name. He won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League trophies. He won the Cup Winners Cup, the Super Cup and the Club World Cup.
David Moyes had won the Second Division with Preston North End in 2000.
Succeeding Ferguson was never going to be easy, but the Scot may have left his successor with a harder job than necessary.
Ferguson’s final years at Man United may be characterised by myopia. Long-term stability was sacrificed for short-term success. He was done with building. He’d built a club. Now he wanted to have some fun.
It was the summer of 2012. Manchester United had just lost out on the title on goal difference, with Wayne Rooney scoring 27 league goals along the way. The team was crying out for a central midfielder. Never mind replacing Paul Scholes, Man United still hadn’t found a successor for Roy Keane.
But Ferguson opted to spend £24m on a 29-year-old striker from Arsenal. A very good 29-year-old striker, but an injury prone player with no sell-on value and high wage demands.
The result was one last sweet title for Ferguson, but one massive headache for Moyes. The Rooney and Van Persie conundrum aside, Moyes also inherited a starting back four that included three players of 32 or over, a starting right-back who was a liability and no left-winger deserved of a starting place.
But even so, the squad is of good enough quality to be higher than the 7th place that they currently occupy.
However, if we are to blame Ferguson for Manchester United’s demise this season, should we be praising David Moyes for Everton’s success?
David Moyes managed Everton for 11 years. He built a stable structure at the club while working with a lot less money than other managers around him. No one worried about Everton with Moyes. The only thing they worried about was what they’d do when he eventually left.
But apparently such concerns were idle, as Everton under Roberto Martinez appear to have moved onto another level. With four games left to play, the Toffees have Champions League football in their sights, and recently comprehensively defeated their rivals for this position 3-0.
Many have pointed to the strong defensive structure and solid scouting policy under Moyes as reasons for the Scot to take credit from Martinez’ success. And while these areas were undoubtedly strong, both have changed significantly under Martinez.
Moyes left behind a solid back five in Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka and Coleman. And while Martinez hasn’t made a changes to personal barring injury, he has changed the manner in which the team defend.
Under Martinez, Everton defend much higher and try to win the ball back further up the pitch. Sylvain Distin in particular has excelled in this role, having one of his best seasons at the club while sweeping up in between defence and keeper.
Roberto Martinez has also benefitted from the strong squad that Moyes left behind, with players such as Mirallas, Naismith and Pienaar all impressing under the Spaniard.
However, the former Wigan manager has made quite a few changes to a squad that didn’t seem in need of overhaul, most notably by bringing in Lukaku, McCarthy, Barry and Deulofeu. These players have had a major impact at the club this season, and Everton certainly look like a Roberto Martinez’s team from the midfield on.
The truth, as it often does, probably lies somewhere in the middle. While Ferguson has certainly had a part in Man United’s poor season, he left David Moyes a squad that was better than the 7th place which he’s steered it to.
Similarly, while Moyes left a strong structure in place at Everton, it would be unfair on Martinez to give Moyes the credit for their success this season. Roberto Martinez has changed a lot in his first year at Everton, and often to positive effect.