With arguably the greatest manager of all time stepping down after 27 years in charge, it was never going to be easy for David Moyes to assert himself as Sir Alex Ferguson’s worthy successor at Manchester United.
However, with a handful of games under his belt, the Scot has made an impression.
United’s 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night was a promising one, with signs that Moyes is beginning to stamp his authority on the team.
There was an attacking verve about Moyes’ side that was underpinned by industry in the middle of the pitch, something that was lacking last season.
Antonio Valencia finished off a sweeping counterattack for the goal of the game and put in a fantastic display down United's right flank.
Defensive lapses aside, it was a strong showing from United, and David Moyes spoke to MUTV of his side’s measure of control:
I was delighted to get the first one and get it started and I thought we had good control of the game from there on in. Leverkusen were a threat at set-pieces all night really, they’re a very big team. But overall we had control and we scored some really good goals tonight.
Wayne Rooney was United’s standout player, further suggesting that he is returning to something near his best.
It was Moyes’ resolve in denying Rooney a move away from Old Trafford that signalled the Scot’s intent upon taking over from Ferguson—and retaining the forward’s services was no doubt Moyes’ best bit of business over the summer.
Rooney’s performances this season highlight just how important it was that David Moyes kept him in the red of Manchester United, and not the blue of Chelsea.
Fellaini looked comfortable in United’s starting lineup against Bayer Leverkusen, and if he can strike up a solid partnership with Michael Carrick then he could be one of the signings of the season.
Of course, Moyes missed out on a number of other key transfer targets, but the current crop of players cruised to a 13th Premier League title last season—and only Arsenal and Manchester City have scored more in the early stages of this season.
Under Moyes’ stewardship, United were tipped to finish behind both Manchester City and Chelsea. When you compare the teams’ respective opening fixtures, however, United have had the tougher start.
All three teams have picked up seven points from a possible 12.
It may seem strange, then, that the same criticisms levelled at Moyes have not also been aimed at City boss Manuel Pellegrini and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
But it was to be expected.
Any shortcomings on or off the field were likely to be blown out of proportion following Ferguson’s departure, regardless of who took over.
A bore draw at home to Chelsea and a lukewarm performance at Liverpool did Moyes no favours, though there is no reason for Manchester United fans to feel unduly worried at this early stage.
Importantly, Robin van Persie has continued where he left off, netting six times in six games this season (Community Shield included). After the Dutchman moved to rubbish rumours that he was unhappy with life at United, according to the Telegraph, it will have been music to David Moyes’ ears to learn that Van Persie is already looking to extend his contract beyond 2016, as reported by ESPN's Richard Jolly.
Having made a fair start to the Premier League season and with his first win in the Champions League secured, Sunday’s away fixture at title rivals Manchester City will shed some light on just how good a start Moyes has made since taking over at Old Trafford.
Win, and it’s a more than respectable start. Lose, and questions will be asked.
That is the nature of managing Manchester United, a truth David Moyes must learn to accept.