New Manchester United manager Moyes cast from the same mould as Ferguson
There are many similarities between the two determined Glaswegians
Like Alex Ferguson earning a living as a moderate professional footballer rather than a star name, David Moyes realised early on that his forte was going to be in management. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
David Moyes had the chance to become Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United 15 years ago but missed out — he believes because his fellow Glaswegian found him “too intense”.
Steve McClaren got the job instead, a decision Moyes says he was “fine with” as he was enjoying his first managerial job at Preston. Perhaps had Ferguson worried that Moyes was almost too similar, too much a chip off the same block?
“When I went to speak to him about becoming his assistant years ago he thought me a little too intense,” Moyes said last year. “But I remember sitting on the bench at Celtic and watching him at Aberdeen with his veins bulging out of his neck!”
Certainly, Ferguson kept tabs on the up-and-coming North End manager and soon became a keen fan of a man who achieved remarkable success on extremely limited resources at Everton.
There was also little point in denying they were cast from the same mould.
Born in Glasgow, and like Ferguson earning a living as a moderate professional footballer rather than a star name, Moyes realised early on that his forte was going to be in management.
At the age of 22 he was already taking coaching courses in preparation for the day when he would hang up his boots. Having been influenced by John Beck, he also foresaw the move to a more scientific approach to management
Moyes and Ferguson both had less than successful spells at the Old Firm clubs – Moyes at Celtic, Ferguson at Rangers. Both had spells at Dunfermline but while Ferguson spent his playing career in Scotland, Moyes headed south of the border. He played for Cambridge, Bristol City and Shrewsbury, before returning to Scotland – Dunfermline and Hamilton Academicals – and then finally settling down in Preston where he ended his career as player-manager.
His first full season saw Preston reach the Division Two play-offs, and in his second North End won the title, and a year after that were in the Division One play-off final. That swift transformation caught the eye of Everton, and it was to Moyes the Merseysiders turned in March 2002 after Walter Smith was sacked.
It was at Goodison Park this heir apparent to Ferguson really caught the eye – and increasingly to resemble his mentor at Old Trafford. His often ferocious demeanour, his inability to suffer fools gladly, his talent spotting and his ability to prise the best out of his players, whatever their natural gifts, marked him down long ago as a potential successor.
He embraced the use of footballing data – he now uses three analysts not only to report on the detailed performances of his own players, but on the opposition: where the key players gain possession of the ball most often, where to station defenders to stem the flow.
His first full season saw Everton finish seventh, a remarkable achievement that earned him the first of three League Managers’ Association manager-of-the-year awards. Moyes also showed he had bravery – it was he who decided to unleash a 16-year-old Wayne Rooney on to the Premier League.
It was also Moyes who showed that Everton could survive and even flourish without their star player – for the first season without Rooney, 2004-5, was the one they finished highest: fourth place and another LMA award for Moyes.
In 2009, Everton were beaten FA Cup finalists – having beaten United in the semi-final – finished fifth in the league to secure a fourth European qualification in five seasons and Moyes picked up a third manager-of-the-year award.
To many it seemed just a question of when rather than if that those piercing blue eyes would be occupying the manager’s dug-out at Old Trafford.
Now that time has finally come.