When rumors started flying on the Internet that Sir Alex Ferguson was about to retire in May of last year, there was a feeling of dread and fear surrounding Manchester United fans.
The fear would soon become a reality, with Ferguson indeed retiring. As we stand, his self-chosen successor, David Moyes, is struggling to find the kind of imperious form that has become expected at Old Trafford. Yet, his suitability for the job and his dedication to it are not to be questioned.
It was common knowledge among United fans that the transitional phase would be tough. Indeed, did anyone truly believe that replacing such an enigmatic leader would be a straightforward, instantaneous process?
Sir Alex himself knew that when he made his farewell speech (text via the BBC) after his final home game in charge, a 2-1 victory over Swansea. “I’d like to remind you that when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me," Ferguson said. "Your job now is to stand by our new manager.”
It was a defeat to Swansea in the third round of the FA Cup that further mounted pressure upon Moyes and Manchester United. It was their second of what would be three consecutive defeats.
Yet, there is still plenty of reason to have faith in the Scot. Indeed, the worst thing the club could do in the aftermath of Sir Alex’s extensive tenure is to have a host of short-term managers unable to make their imprint on the side.
While you could suggest that Moyes at first struggled with the sheer size of the challenge ahead, he is now bedding into his new job, his heart is in Old Trafford. Over the past few weeks we have seen a more animated, passionate and, dare I say it, more Ferguson-esque David Moyes.
He seems more at home in the Old Trafford dugout nowadays; it’s clear where his heart now lies. He is slowly beginning to truly grasp the depth and ability of his squad and how he can best utilize his players.
In their Premier League home victory against Swansea last weekend we saw just that.
Moyes’ tactical awareness shone through in some decisions he made. One was drafting Shinji Kagawa into the No. 10 role behind Danny Welbeck.
Another was having Adnan Januzaj consequently drop out wide and match up against the already booked Angel Rangel. It was, of course, this eye for detail, this intelligence that won his predecessor's affections. Considering United’s current injury dilemmas, there are few other coaches out there you would want in the dugout.
While this change primarily highlighted the unfaltering confidence and natural talent of Adnan Januzaj, qualities that inspired his side to a decisive victory, it also saw Kagawa breaking out of his shell a little more.
Often relegated to the flanks with Rooney seizing the No. 10 role in the centre of the park, he had a golden chance to stake a claim on the position. While he didn’t scrawl his name all over the score sheet, he was pivotal in every positive move for the Red Devils.
As Alex Hess of Squawka noted, the half-time change sparked something in the Japanese playmaker. Weaving in and out of players with swift, agile movement and shifting the ball with a 90 percent pass success rate, he was key in the fluency of United’s attacking play. Despite some lacklustre performances this season, Moyes has kept faith in Shinji, just as Ferguson insisted the United fans did for Moyes.
While the victory will unlikely produce a seismic shift in the title race and invigorate the side, it is a step in the right direction. Moyes and Co. travel to Stamford Bridge next for a crucial game. Whatever the result, the United faithful must remain just that.