x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Memo to David Moyes: If it is not broke at Manchester United, do not fix it

After the managerial retirment of Sir Alex Ferguson, a drastic overhaul under new manager David Moyes is not likely at Manchester United, writes Richard Jolly.

Sir Alex Ferguson, top, walks the pitch during his final match as Manchester United manager. Michael Regan / Getty Images
Sir Alex Ferguson, top, walks the pitch during his final match as Manchester United manager. Michael Regan / Getty Images

As Sir Alex Ferguson bade an emotional farewell to Old Trafford 10 days ago, words, for once, spoke as loud as actions. Manchester United's retiring manager got the tone right as he addressed the crowd. His players queued up to pay tribute, whether it was Robin van Persie regretting that he had a solitary season under the Scot or Ryan Giggs reflecting upon his 940 games for the 71 year old.

And yet the most pertinent comment came from an interested spectator at a private party.

"It a new world from July 1st," said Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup. It is, and all the certainties of the old age have vanished. For 26 years, United have had the same manager and for the past 23, barring a blip in 2005, their supporters have been denied the dilemmas their counterparts at other clubs confronted.

Back or sack the manager? Their choice was all too obvious.

While others have endured speculation and instability, United have been a club apart. No longer.

It was significant Ferguson's final words on the Old Trafford pitch were a request to back his successor, David Moyes.

The replacement of one battle-hardened Glaswegian loyalist with another is a sign the Evertonian is the continuity candidate. United ignored Jose Mourinho. The shock and awe of the supreme short-term manager is not their style.

Revolution is not in the air.

"I wouldn't expect there to be a major retooling of the squad," executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said. Moyes begins with his predecessor and his employers advising him not to alter much at a club that has boasted remarkable continuity.

Giggs is cited most often as proof, but his longevity camouflages the way others, too, have remained at Old Trafford. Rio Ferdinand has been at United for 11 years, Wayne Rooney for nine, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic for seven-and-a-half apiece and Michael Carrick for seven.

Anderson and Nani are never described as long-serving stalwarts but each has been there for six years; at many other club, that would grant them the status of an elder statesman.

Instead, both are now fringe players. Whether permanence has benefited footballers whose careers have stalled is a moot point. United have suggested they want quality, not quantity, in the summer transfer market.

While he has a track record of working with players he inherited, Moyes could require both. Paul Scholes is retiring and there are legitimate questions if Darren Fletcher will play again.

Ferdinand is out of contract and Rooney unsettled, even if the initial sense is that the Merseysider is one of the few who will not mourn Ferguson's departure and, having asked for a move, could be persuaded to stay. Nevertheless, change could happen.

If the expectation is that Moyes will return to Goodison Park to bid for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – and a move for the latter might edge Evra out – the new manager is pitched into territory he not charted before.

He has never been able to compete at the top end of the transfer market before. United have an obvious allure to world-class players, but does Moyes? Can he identify them?

His record, admirable in many ways, adds uncertainty in others.

In 46 attempts, he has never won away at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or, indeed, United. His sides have been accused of harbouring an inferiority complex.

Ferguson's finest teams were indomitable, his 13th and final title built on victories at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Etihad Stadium. His successor has to show similar tactical nous and motivational prowess.

The need to sign a marquee player may be increased because he replaces a match-winner.

Ferguson, said his former captain Gary Neville, "is worth 10 points a season." He could intimidate officials and opponents alike. He could be a bully. He could be brilliant. He had unrivalled experience whereas Moyes is famously untried in the Uefa Champions League.

And yet, despite the days in 1999 and 2008 when Ferguson conquered Europe, he was at his best in Britain. He cast a huge shadow over the entire Premier League and, more often than not, won it.

As United look for more of the same, their greatest hope is they remain dominant in the new world. The reality, though, is that no one quite knows what it will look like.


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