Soccer / David Moyes, the New Goliath

Manchester United's new coach sets off to fill the shoes of long-time friend and mentor Sir Alex Ferguson.

Four years ago, in these very pages, a story about David Moyes predicted that "David would yet become Goliath." The article suggested that Everton's manager would one day replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United's coach – not a daring prophecy, just a careful assumption, and one shared by many soccer fans in the U.K. for years. And now, the prediction has come true, with the official announcement that Moyes will be headed to Old Trafford, where he will try to fill Alex Ferguson's shoes.

"I know how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever, but the opportunity to manage Manchester United isn't something that comes around very often," Moyes said. "It's a great honor to be asked to be the next manager of Manchester United. I'm really looking forward to taking up the post next season."

Moyes, like Ferguson, is Scottish, and the redheaded Glaswegian has long enjoyed Ferguson's friendship and admiration. Not only was Sir Alex Moyes' mentor, it seems that his unequivocal endorsement of Moyes as his successor left the United board with no other choice.

"He's cut from the same cloth," says Steve Bruce, United's captain in the first title of the Ferguson era. And when David Gill, the departing chief executive of Manchester United, spoke of a successor who "has to have the requisite football experience, both in terms of domestic and European experience," he was clearly referring to Moyes.

Moyes is extremely familiar with the ins and outs of the Premier League, and has the experience of having spent more than 11 years in Everton. He attaches utmost importance to long-term planning, and to striking a balance between bringing young players through the ranks and finding the right ones for his team.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Moyes was offered a six-year contract. Gary Neville, once a Fergie Fledgling and now a respected television pundit and England coach, described the hire as a "victory for sanity," meaning the team hired the right man for the long term, instead of blindly scooping up a rock star coach – the opposite of what usually happens in clubs owned by tycoons and oligarchs.

But Moyes can boast more than that: Everton finished in the top eight in almost all his seasons in Liverpool, despite a relatively miniscule budget. Everton's average transfer budget was 800,000 pounds a year, equivalent to the monthly wage of a leading player in his new club.

It will be interesting to see what Moyes' United will look like. Wayne Rooney – who came through the ranks in Everton – requested a transfer two weeks ago but was refused. Still, Rooney and Moyes were involved in a court battle having to do with quotes from Rooney's book – Moyes won, and Rooney apologized – and it's hard to say whether the manager will want to build a team with the England star.

Then there's the CR7 question. Ronaldo is rumored to want a return to United, with his contract running down in Madrid. In any case, any of these changes – Ronaldo in, Rooney out – would be less significant than the change at the helm of the club.

Would Jose Mourinho have been a safer bet, as some pundits believe? In the short term, and as far as the Champions League title next season is concerned, the answer is probably yes. But while these things are important, in a club structured around long-term planning rather than quick fixes, Moyes could turn out to be the right guy at the right time – the right time being Fergie time.

When the great Matt Busby retired, his successors found it difficult to manage, and he even returned to guide the team for several months. The first manager who survived – Tommy Docherty – was the one who saw the club relegated to the second division. This probably won't happen to United under David Moyes, but regardless, the next season at Old Trafford is bound to be an interesting one. 

AP