David Moyes Era Begins at Manchester United, but Shadow of Sir Alex Remains

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterJuly 5, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 19:  Everton manager David Moyes during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The most important name at David Moyes' first press conference as Manchester United's new manager was not David Moyes. That should come as little surprise.

In taking over as manager of England's richest and most successful club, Moyes is stepping into a position of potentially vast power, but in the present moment, two names dominate the club. One comes from United's recently ended past; the other could hold the key to Moyes' future.

The first, of course, is Sir Alex Ferguson, the 71-year-old Scot who retired as United's manager in May after leading the club to 13 league titles, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League triumphs over 26-and-a-half gloriously unmatched years. Because of that legacy, Moyes faces a tricky task in leading United. No matter what Moyes does or doesn't win, he will almost surely fail to match Ferguson's success.

It's a fact Ferguson himself seems to recognize. This week, The Guardian reported that Ferguson is considering not attending Moyes' first few games in charge—not as a snub, but in an effort to let Moyes become his own man.

Not that Moyes would risk going it totally alone. In fielding questions about the knighted former manager, Moyes made sure to pay appropriate homage:

Moyes: "Sir Alex invited me to his home to tell me he was retiring. His next words were: 'You're the next Manchester United manager'." #mufc

— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) July 5, 2013

With that, Moyes paid tribute to the past and Sir Alex's unmistakable contribution while also legitimizing himself as Ferguson's hand-picked successor. No decision about United's managerial search, in other words, could have been made without Ferguson's guidance, and Moyes must reckon he will have similar—if obviously less absolute—power with Ferguson's endorsement.

It was a shrewd move, as was appointing long-serving midfielder Ryan Giggs, the club's all-time appearances leader, as player-coach this week with immediate effect. Faced with an impossible task—replacing an irreplaceable manager—Moyes is doing his best to ease the succession with help from the old regime's most powerful figures.

Meanwhile, Moyes faces another tricky situation in dealing with Wayne Rooney, the second of the two most important names from his introductory press conference. Rooney, a 27-year-old England international forward, submitted a transfer request near the end of last season, per a Sky Sports TV interview with Ferguson in May.

Rooney has asked for a transfer before, in 2010, when he flirted with Manchester City before signing a new contract with United. He changed his mind once before, but that was when Ferguson's powerful personality ruled Old Trafford.

Throughout the summer, United have said Rooney will not be sold, and Moyes repeated the claim Friday, per BBC Sport.

Moyes added a few wrinkles, saying he has spotted a "glint" in Rooney's eye and suggesting that Rooney should stay with United to become the club's all-time leading scorer. The former is unverifiable, but the latter is an interesting approach, considering Rooney needs only 52 goals to match Sir Bobby Charlton atop United's scoring list.

Such a pitch could provide strong motivation for Rooney to stay, but it also, in effect, gave the initiative to Rooney.

So in Moyes' fifth day in the job he's handed the power back to Rooney by all but admitting he's scared of losing such a big name.

— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) July 5, 2013

Moyes has lost Rooney once before, when Everton sold the teenage forward to United in 2004. Losing him again wouldn't be as damaging this time because of the depth of United's squad.

It would, however, begin Moyes' tenure on a negative note.