LONDON, England, May 10 – For all the goodwill amassed as he fought to keep Everton punching above their weight in the Premier League, David Moyes will be entering alien territory when he succeeds Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager on July 1.
Both clubs hail from England’s northwest, both were founded in 1878, and both number among England’s oldest and most well-supported sides, but it is there that the similarities tail off.
At Everton, Moyes had to show the skill of an alchemist to squeeze every last ounce out of the club’s modest budget, occasionally dredging the lower leagues for players that his club’s wealthier rivals had overlooked.
His eye for a bargain has helped him lead Everton to six consecutive top-eight finishes, but he has no experience of operating at the very top end of the transfer market and at United, he will have the resources of one of the world’s richest clubs at his fingertips.
Ferguson personally recommended Moyes to the United board, no doubt seeing in his fellow Glaswegian glimpses of the passion and iron will that fuelled his own rise to the top, but he will also be keenly aware of the 50-year-old’s near total lack of Champions League experience.
In his 11 years at Everton, Moyes presided over just two games in Europe’s elite competition — a two-legged defeat by Villarreal in the qualifying rounds of the 2005-06 tournament.
He led Everton into battle in the Europa League four times, reaching the last 16 in 2008, but he has never pitted his wits against teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AC Milan, against whom United are duty-bound to measure themselves.
The 20-time English champions made a statement by awarding Moyes a six-year contract, with club director Bobby Charlton trumpeting the arrival of “a man who will build teams for the future, as well as now”.
By granting such a relatively untested manager such a long contract, United appear to be hoping that the systems put in place by Ferguson will allow the new man to slip into the driving seat without sending the juggernaut off the road — or slowing it down unduly.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Moyes will be granted four years to find his feet, as Ferguson was when he succeeded Ron Atkinson in November 1986.
Such are the heights to which Ferguson has elevated the club that they cannot afford the backwards steps that a newcomer might be granted elsewhere.
United have not finished outside the top three since 1991. They have not failed to qualify for the Champions League since 1995. Since 1990, they have finished a season without at least one piece of major silverware on only three occasions.
Then there is the shock factor. By the time Moyes arrives, United will have played 1,500 games without having had to adapt to a new manager, and Ferguson’s shadow is destined to linger after he was granted a directorial role.
Moyes, though, is no callow newcomer, and he could not wish to inherit a more minutely calibrated winning machine.
A modern manager, who employs three data analysts at Everton, Moyes will find an organism geared to success right down to the height of the grass at the club’s world-leading Carrington training facility.
He will also inherit a team of champions, who romped to this season’s Premier League title with almost disdainful ease.
More importantly, he will find a squad geared for long-term success.
The current squad brims with young players such as Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck who are still to peak, and Ferguson is confident that “the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one”.
The new man’s first major dilemma concerns a familiar face.
Blooded by Moyes at Everton at the age of just 16, Wayne Rooney is reported to have asked to leave United — for the second in three years — after growing disillusioned by the way he has slipped behind Robin van Persie in the pecking order.
Moyes’ handling of the issue will give an early indication of his ability to handle the intense scrutiny that accompanies every facet of life at Old Trafford. And Ferguson will be watching.