Sir Alex Ferguson Is Casting a Long Shadow over David Moyes at Manchester United

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 8, 2014

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 07:  David Moyes manager of Manchester United looks on during the Capital One Cup Semi-Final, first leg match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on January 7, 2014 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

As Wilfried Bony ran toward the Swansea City fans in a small corner of Old Trafford having scored the goal that knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup, David Moyes could only stand on the touchline and watch.

The Sir Alex Ferguson stand on the opposite side of the stadium, by now rapidly emptying, loomed over him. The United fans in the Stretford End tried to rally their team for one final attack with a chorus of "Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie's boys." All the while the man himself looked on from the director's box. 

Ferguson is everywhere. Pictures of his achievements line the corridors at Carrington, his statue looks out over Manchester from its base at Old Trafford. He's in the bricks, the turf and the air.

The debate is whether it's suffocating his successor.

Moyes is saying all the right things about the impact it's having as he tries to lead United into a new era. But Ferguson was the man who appointed him, still a club employee as a non-executive director and he can hardly be expected to say anything else.

If he does feel Ferguson is becoming a hindrance rather than a help, it will be a very private thought.

PETERBOROUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Sir Alex Ferguson is seen in the stands during the Sky Bet League One match between Peterborough United and Leyton Orient at London Road Stadium on November 02, 2013 in Peterborough, England. (Photo by Dave Jones/Getty
Dave Jones/Getty Images

Logically, the old manager being sat in the stands while the new manager tries to get on with his job shouldn't affect performances on the pitch. 

It's not the reason Bony was allowed to dump United out of the FA Cup or why Tom Cleverley gave away a clumsy penalty against Sunderland on Tuesday night.

It's not the reason Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are on the treatment table or why Moyes hasn't got much of a midfield. 

Those are the mechanical reasons why United are seventh in the Premier League table, why they've already lost six league games this season, four of them at home. 

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 07:  David Moyes manager of Manchester United looks on from the bench prior to the Capital One Cup Semi-Final, first leg match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on January 7, 2014 in Sunderland, Eng
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Moyes will have known when he accepted the job that Ferguson wouldn't just disappear into the shadows. He hasn't got an office at Old Trafford like Sir Matt Busby did after Wilf McGuiness took over in 1969, but he was unlikely to just fade away into the background.

After all, he is entitled to attend games given what he achieved at the club. And it should be no more of a problem than a watching Bobby Charlton putting pressure on Michael Carrick.

But it still feels awkward, unhealthy even that Ferguson has a front row seat for Moyes' baptism of fire. Like learning to drive while Lewis Hamilton sits in the passenger seat.

Moyes can still call of Ferguson's vast knowledge without the former manager attending games. He won't lose anything if Ferguson stops going, but he might just gain a bit more space to breathe.