It is still hard to believe that Sir Alex Ferguson won't be manager of Manchester United next season.
The parade, the speeches, the trophy celebration—it all passed a little too quickly for comfort. A year-long mix of celebration and mourning may have been more apt.
But this is the man he is—like the retiring Paul Scholes, he would rather go quietly into the night than overshadow the club for an extended period.
Sir Alex is Manchester United—the two are inextricably linked. I, like so many young fans of the Red Devils, have known nothing else in my lifetime.
There was Sir Matt Busby, and there is Sir Alex Ferguson. These men were irreplaceable and yet must be replaced. It is the toughest job in the game.
The weight of responsibility that falls on the newly appointed David Moyes is immense. He will face countless obstacles and challenges in his United career, both immediately and in the long term.
Here is an in-depth look at what those might be.
The Wayne Rooney Situation
It is unfortunate that the first order of business David Moyes has to deal with at Old Trafford is the want-away intentions of one of the club's stars.
Wayne Rooney hasn't had the best season, but when Sir Alex revealed to Sky Sports that Rooney had requested a transfer, it was quite a shock.
"I think he's maybe a bit frustrated at being taken off once or twice in the past few weeks," Ferguson said.
The English forward demanded to leave United in 2010, citing the club's lack of ambition in the transfer market, but he was persuaded to stay.
Now, in 2013, the Red Devils are Premier League champions, and they have the strongest squad on paper since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet Rooney again wants to leave, whether due to a lack of playing time or otherwise.
Another reason which is possibly fueling his desire to leave is his strained relationship with Moyes—his first manager at Everton. The two were engaged in a bitter legal feud in 2006, when Moyes sued Rooney for libel for defamatory remarks made in the forward's autobiography, My Story So Far.
Though they have supposedly patched up their differences, there is sure to be some lingering awkwardness or ill feeling.
So how does Moyes deal with this first challenge?
Does he go out of his way to persuade the English forward to stay? Or does he look for the quick sale, ridding the squad of any bad blood?
He wouldn't want his first significant act as manager to be to sell a top player, but this situation was not of his making. All he can do is act in the club's best interests.
Earning the Respect of the Players
There have been few managers in the game who have as much gravitas as Sir Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes will not be able to walk straight into Old Trafford and assume the respect of the playing staff; he will have to earn it. After all, so many United players have given their all for Sir Alex, so asking them to do the same for Moyes immediately is unreasonable.
Moyes must be glad that tears were shed in the dressing room when Sir Alex announced his retirement—he will eventually ask that same loyalty.
But it's reasonable to assume his authority will be tested. It would be impossible to drive all thought of Sir Alex from the team meetings and half-time team talks, and that is a difficult presence to parallel.
The good news for the Red Devils is that those who played under Moyes at Everton rarely had a dissatisfied word to say about him.
In an interview with The Sun, former United and Everton player Phil Neville sung the praises of the Scotsman:
David Moyes is the best candidate, 100 percent. You can put him alongside any coach in the world for that job and he is the best candidate.
He sucks everything out of everyone. That shows you he’s got something. Of course, the pressure will always be there and he'll have to win games and trophies—but he'll do that.
The Return of Chelsea
Manchester United romped to Premier League glory this term without any real challenger to the throne. Next season, it would be difficult to envisage the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea dropping so far off the pace.
In the case of the latter, the potential return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge could worry the Red Devils.
Say what you want about the man; he gets results. He has won at least one league trophy at every club he has managed since Porto, including two at Chelsea.
Should Mourinho return to his old club, Roman Abramovich, the Blues' owner, is certain to pour a vast amount of money into new signings for the Portuguese boss.
The Mirror recently reported that Mourinho's transfer wish list includes Radamel Falcao, Hulk, Isco and Marouane Fellaini.
How many of those wishes are granted (and if Mourinho will indeed be managing Chelsea) will be determined in the coming months. Nonetheless, the potential there makes it seem as though Chelsea will pose the biggest threat to United's domestic dominance next term.
With the wealth of talent already in the squad, if a free-scoring goalscorer like Falcao were to arrive, they will be a very hard team to stop.
Moyes hasn't had the best record against top-five teams in recent seasons. Even with the enhanced talent at United, he will need to devise ways of beating the league's best.
On paper, next season's Premier League seems too close to call. Moyes' primary job will be elevating United above their rivals.
Managing a "Big" Club
Much has been made of David Moyes' nose for a bargain. At Goodison Park, he worked with a slim budget that forced him to sniff out potential stars from near obscurity.
Manchester United are a completely different prospect.
As soon as the Red Devils' interest in a potential target becomes known, his price tag inflates. Other clubs then typically follow suit—such is the high reputation of the United scouts.
There will be some clubs that try to exploit Moyes and United, asking them to pay ridiculous sums of money for transfer targets. This is an obstacle of which he must be wary.
At Manchester United, anything less than first place is seen as disappointing. Conversely, at Everton, gaining a European place was the only real goal.
It is worth mentioning that Moyes never won a trophy at Goodison Park. He will have to right that wrong as soon as possible at Old Trafford.
There will be bigger egos in the dressing room, bigger contracts and a bigger media spotlight shone on his every move.
In his post-match interview after United's recent 5-5 draw with West Brom, Sir Alex briefly referred to this aspect of managing Manchester United.
"I think the enormity of the club—[Moyes] will soon realise that anyways," said Ferguson. "The global brand and number of sponsors we have here, he has to fit into that."
The pressures he will face will be 10 times bigger than anything previously in his career.
Some men would buckle under this burden, but Moyes must thrive.
In the grand scheme of things, David Moyes' biggest challenge will be trying to replicate the longevity of Sir Alex's Manchester United career.
Part of what made Fergie so special was his ability to adapt to the changing nature of the game—to build and rebuild teams of winners. Thus, over 26 years, trophies were never very far from his grip.
No one is asking Moyes to coach the Red Devils for 26 years—perhaps not even 16—but he is no stopgap solution.
This is why Jose Mourinho was overlooked. The Glazers and Sir Alex wanted stability—a man who wouldn't get a wandering eye or be tempted by other challenges.
In his interview with The Sun, Phil Neville explained that he believes this is why Moyes was hired:
He’s not at United for two or three seasons. If Mourinho came to Man United you’d think, with his track record, that in maybe three seasons he’d be gone.
People talk about Mourinho being the Special One but the gaffer has something special about him in his own way. United are looking at the next 20 years. They’ve just given Moyes a six-year contract, and he’s probably going to be there for the rest of his managerial career. It’s that kind of club.
They invest in a certain kind of manager and that’s why he’s the best man for the job. There’s no one else they could have invested in who would offer the same longevity as the previous manager.
Moyes must win too—and regularly. United officials won't make a Chelsea or Manchester City move and fire him after one barren campaign. But expectations at Old Trafford are just as high as, if not higher than anywhere else.
Fans will be patient, but not if it seems as if the club is in decline. But that's not to say an improvement is necessary.
Moyes is arriving at a club which has won five of the last seven Premier League trophies. Keeping things at status quo would be more than enough.
There's the real challenge.
What will be the greatest obstacles in David Moyes' way at Old Trafford?
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