Following Greatness: What History Tells Us About Moyes Taking over for Ferguson
The world now knows who will inherit Sir Alex Ferguson's incomparable legacy at Manchester United.
It's been confirmed that Everton manager David Moyes will be the man to take on the considerable mantle (BBC). The 50-year-old will arrive at Old Trafford under a weight of expectancy as heavy as you could possibly imagine.
Ferguson will be gone from dugout, but his name will loom large in everything Moyes does. Comparison will stalk his every decision and his team's every poor result.
For the last 26-and-a-half years, Ferguson has been all United fans have known. His rule has defined the club and witnessed a dynasty, yielding 13 league titles and two Champions League wins.
Moyes will now walk in the shadow of Ferguson's greatness.
Let's take a look at some other coaches from various American sports and world football who have done the same. History might tell us exactly what to expect from Moyes when he officially starts his reign on July 1.
Bill Guthridge, UNC Basketball, 1997-2000
Who he followed: Dean Smith, 1961-1997
What he had to live up to: Smith won two NCAA championships, 13 ACC tournament titles, 16 ACC regular-season titles, took his team to the Final Four 11 times and was named National Coach of the Year four times during his 36 years at Carolina. UNC's basketball arena is named in his honor.
How he fared: Bill Guthridge elevated from Smith's assistant and was head coach for just three seasons at UNC before retiring in 2000. Despite the enormous shadow of Smith looming over him, the Kansas State alumnus performed very well.
His profile at UNC's website speaks highly of his time in charge: "Following a legend is no easy task, but Bill Guthridge did an outstanding job leading the Carolina men's basketball program after Dean Smith stepped down after 36 years as head coach."
NCAA basketball records tell us Guthridge's first season following Smith remains the most successful debut campaign in the sport's history, by victories achieved. UNC won 34 games in 1998 at a percentage of .895.
Guthridge didn't win the NCAA title with the Tarheels, but he did take them to the Final Four twice in three seasons and was named College Coach of the Year for 1998.
Ultimate judgment: Success
Tim Floyd, Chicago Bulls, 1998-2001
Who he followed: Phil Jackson, 1989-1998
What he had to live up to: Jackson won six NBA titles in his nine years with the Bulls, presiding over the Michael Jordan era to achieve one of sport's most dominant dynasties. Jackson earned two "three-peats" in Chicago, twice leading his time to three successive titles.
The 1995-96 Bulls were particularly special, recording a regular-season record of 72-10 helped by Jordan's return from retirement. "Hands down, the greatest team of all time," wrote John Hollinger of Jackson's class of '96 for ESPN.com.
How he fared: Tim Floyd's task was a daunting one. Not only had the Bulls lost a great coach in Jackson, but the game's all-time greatest player in Jordan and the influential Scottie Pippen left with him.
To say things did not go well would be an understatement. The Bulls went 13-37 in Floyd's first season, and their win percentage dropped through his four years at the helm from .260 down to a miserable .160 for 2001 (NBA.com). His complete record was 49-190.
The caveat to his underwhelming succession is that it came during a rebuilding process for the Bulls. When Floyd resigned in 2001, he was credited by those in charge in Chicago with having performed an important role (NBA.com).
Ultimate judgment: Failure
Ralph Houk, New York Yankees, 1961-63
Who he followed: Casey Stengel, 1949-60
What he had to live up to: Stengel is the only manager in MLB history to have won five consecutive World Series. In total he won seven with the Yankees in 12 seasons, capturing 10 American League pennants.
Stengel was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and passed away in 1975. His haul of seven World Series titles is a record he shares with another former Yankees coach, Joe McCarthy.
How he fared: Ralph Houk had much to live up to, but winning back-to-back World Series in his first two seasons was an emphatic answer to whether he was fit to inherit Stengel's legacy.
Houk's 1961 Yankees recorded 109 victories on their way to the title, more than any of the teams managed by Stengel and currently seventh on the all-time list (Baseball nexus).
"Houk joined Hughie Jennings, who managed the Tigers to American League pennants from 1907 to 1909, as the only managers to finish in first place in each of their first three seasons," wrote Richard Goldstein in a New York Times obituary to Houk.
In 1963 Houk was promoted to become the Yankees general manager.
Ultimate judgment: Success
Phil Bengtson, Green Bay Packers, 1968-70
Who he followed: Vince Lombardi, 1959-67
What he had to live up to: The consensus has Lombardi as the greatest coach in NFL history. The legendary former Packers coach won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls during his eight seasons in Green Bay. His playoff record of 9-1 is a testament to an ability to make it happen when it mattered.
What makes Lombardi's reign even more remarkable is the fact he took over a struggling team that had become an embarrassment, and transformed them into the most dominant force in the sport.
This as per an ESPNClassic biography of Lombardi, written by Mike Puma:
When he was named head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1959, Vince Lombardi made it known that he had never been associated with losing teams. He vowed this trend would continue. This was tough talk considering Lombardi had taken over a laughingstock, a franchise that had just gone 1-10-1, its ninth losing season in 11 years.
How he fared: Phil Bengtson was Lombardi's defensive coach before elevating to the main job in 1967, and he was credited with playing a big role in their success. His time in as head coach was less fruitful, however, with the Packers returning a 20-21-1 record during his three seasons in charge.
Green Bay's win percentage fell from .783 under Lombardi to .488 under Bengston, who resigned in December 1970.
Ultimate judgment: Failure
Joe Fagan, Liverpool, 1983-85
Who he followed: Bob Paisley, 1974-83
What he had to live up to: Liverpool passed from one legendary coach to another when Paisely took over from Bill Shankly in 1974.
Having spent his entire playing career at Anfield, Paisley worked on Shankly's staff in various roles and was already a Liverpool institution. By winning six league titles and three European Cups as the club's manager, he elevated to the status of living legend.
Paisley resigned in 1983, and Liverpool once again looked to promote from inside the club. Joe Fagan was the man charged with continuing one of club football's great dynasties.
How he fared: Fagan's first season in charge saw Liverpool win the league title, the League Cup and the European Cup. Undaunted by the task of following Paisley, he led his team on a dominant march that culminated in a penalty shoot-out victory over Roma—made famous by Bruce Grobbelar's "spaghetti legs."
"Under Fagan the Reds played with a cool, calculating efficiency, with every part functioning in balance and harmony," reads Fagan's profile at the official Liverpool website.
Fagan would take Liverpool to the European Cup final the following season too, only to watch a tragedy unfold as 39 fans lost their lives in the Heysel Stadium disaster (Liverpool Echo).
He had already decided to retire after that game, but as this Guardian tribute recalled, Fagan was a beacon of strength as a city came to terms with the events of that day. "That Fagan's glorious cameo should end on such a sombre note is a crying shame," wrote Gregg Roughley.
Ultimate judgment: Success
David Moyes, Manchester United, 2013-?
Who he follows: Sir Alex Ferguson, 1986-2013
What he has to live up to: Put simply, the greatest manager in football history. Ferguson transformed a sleeping giant, and by his achievements will every Manchester United manager going forward be measured.
Ferguson's 13 league titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League wins are just part of the story. The 71-year-old came to define United and instituted a culture of success that David Moyes is now tasked with continuing.
For many United fans, Ferguson is all they've known. Getting used to a new man in charge won't be easy, and Moyes can expect intense scrutiny to fall on his every decision and every word muttered.
History tells us he can succeed, however. As proved by the likes of Guthridge, Houk and Fagan, it's not impossible to follow greatness and continue the theme.
At the same time, the experiences of Floyd and Bengtson are a warning to all who try.