Recovering from hip surgery, Ferguson guides Moyes

It was when he was alone for the first time in the office

vacated by Alex Ferguson that the magnitude of the daunting – but

exhilarating – job became apparent to David Moyes.

Manchester United had a new manager for the first time since

1986, and the domain where Ferguson had presided over years of

supremacy now belonged to Moyes.

”Sitting in the chair for the first time felt odd,” Moyes

recalled ahead of the champions’ Premier League opener at Swansea

on Saturday. ”With nobody looking, I thought I would have to see

how it feels in case anybody thought I looked stupid.”

After 11 years at Everton, Moyes is still feeling his way into

the United job and trying to prove a worthy successor to the

greatest of British managers.

”I still go into the office and feel Sir Alex is still here,”

Moyes said. ”And he will be.”

Ferguson handpicked Moyes as his successor, calling the Everton

manager to his house in April to let him in on the secret that he

was retiring at the end of the season – and telling Moyes that he

would be the new United manager. The succession began officially

after United eased to a record-extending 20th English title.

As a manager who won 38 titles inside 27 years, the 71-year-old

Ferguson became the face and symbol of the modern United, and

escaping his shadow will be hard.

”It might take me 18 months to two years to get things changed

around,” Moyes said.

The 50-year-old Scotsman will continue to tap into the wisdom of

his compatriot, who is swapping the dressing room for the boardroom

at Old Trafford.

”I went to see him at home the other day, he was great,” Moyes

said. ”He is recovering from his hip operation. I will use him for

advice. He will be a great mentor.”

He could also still play a part in shaping the team.

Moyes’ biggest challenge since his first official day in

Ferguson’s office on July 1 has been strengthening the squad before

the Sept. 2 transfer deadline. But the headline-grabbing signings

have not transpired despite the club having pursued Barcelona

midfielders Cesc Fabregas, who committed his future to the Spanish

champions, and Thiago Alcantara, who chose Bayern Munich

instead.

In the future, Moyes said could turn to Ferguson to help push

deals over the line, using his standing in the game to reinforce

the allure of United to hesitant transfer targets.

”This club has ways and means of attracting the top players to

the club,” Moyes said. ”And if we needed to use Sir Alex he would

be more than happy to help.”

At the same time, though, Moyes is trying to carve out his own

history at United and prove that he was the right man for the

job.

It seems to grate the former Celtic defender that some question

his credentials, pointing to his limited success as a manager in

terms of trophies.

Moyes won the third-tier title with Preston in 2000, before

going to Everton where he impressed during more a decade under

financial constraints without winning any honors.

”Sometimes it’s forgotten I have managed in the Premier League

for 11 years so I am relatively experienced in those terms,” said

Moyes, who doesn’t count Sunday’s Community Shield victory over

Wigan as his first United title.

”In my mind I have landed the biggest job. Yes, I am a rookie

at Manchester United but I am not a rookie overall. I hope I am

able to show that as the seasons progress.”

After Moyes’ potentially tricky league opener at Swansea on

Saturday, there are games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester

City among the next four.

Moyes complained that the tough start looked to have been

devised by the Premier League.

”Well the old manager told me those sort of things happened,”

Moyes quipped, referring to Ferguson’s renowned clashes with the

footballing authorities.

The league insisted the fixtures process was ”fair and above

board.”

During the opening weeks of the season, the reaction of fans

will only be one indicator of the level of confidence in Moyes.

Another will come from Wall Street, with United listed on the

New York Stock Exchange, although the American Glazer family

retains control of the club.

”I have really good owners who don’t panic … who will just

shrug (losses) aside and move on,” Moyes said.

Don’t read into that, though, that winning doesn’t matter.

United has become accustomed to silverware under Ferguson, who

ended the 26-year wait for a league title in 1993.

And the mindset of a team famed for its thrilling comebacks and

late goals in ”Fergie Time” must be retained.

”That’s why there is a government health warning that comes

with this job,” Moyes said. ”There is an expectancy and that is

to try and win. … The most important and impressive thing

(Ferguson) has left is the winning mentality.”

And even if Moyes does manage to win titles in his first season,

he knows he’ll still never have the stature of his predecessor.

”It will not get better than Sir Alex Ferguson,” Moyes said.

”It just won’t.”