David Moyes Is Struggling to Fill the Outdated Role Left for Him at Man United

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David Moyes Is Struggling to Fill the Outdated Role Left for Him at Man United
Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

For a football fan in 1986, a glimpse at what the game would become in 2014 would have been similar to watching Back to the Future II.

Weekly wages of £300k and trading players for the GDP of a small country would have been no more believable than hoverboards or TV goggles.

But that's where we're at.

Football was simpler 28 years ago. When Sir Alex Ferguson—or plain old Alex as he was back then—took charge of his first game as manager of Manchester United at Oxford, the coach driver sat next to him on the bench.

It was that kind of time.

After Ferguson took over from Ron Atkinson in November 1986, he assumed total control. It was not something he demanded, but something that was expected.

From signing players and taking training to picking the team and deciding on the tactics, managers did everything.

Bob Dear/Associated Press

But then, there weren't as many press commitments to deal with and very few corporate events to attend. 

A signing could be made in half an hour over the phone and preparation for a game on the Saturday might not start until Thursday.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Nearly 30 years later and it's a different game.

In 2014, a football club is a multi-million pound business. The players are celebrities to rival Hollywood A-listers, with the fragile egos to match.

Transfers are conducted over weeks and months using intermediaries and investment groups.

But Ferguson's great triumph—aside from the bucket-load of trophies—was his ability to adapt.

He accepted new ideas, such as introducing yoga and Pilates into training routines. And he didn't shy away from using new technologies to monitor performance levels.

They would have been alien concepts in 1986.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Ferguson created an infrastructure at United that, by the time he left last summer, could only work with him at its heart.

When he retired, it wasn't as simple as replacing a cog in the machine because Ferguson was the machine.

But if anything, his predecessor David Moyes has taken on more. 

As his years advanced, Ferguson delegated much of the day-to-day work with the players to his coaching staff.

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Instead, he stuck to his strengths. Picking teams, motivating his players and man-managing.

Moyes, though, remains involved on the training pitch as well as dealing with the host of other duties that come with being manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world.

And even for someone who has managed in the Premier League for 10 years, the level of interest in United can be overwhelming.

Because Ferguson was so successful, the way he ran the club almost single-handedly was never called into question. It was a system moulded around the manager. And it worked.

But Moyes is learning quickly that not everyone can do what Ferguson could. 

He will, however, have to do one thing Ferguson did manage if he wants to be a success at Old Trafford.


Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

In 1986, Ferguson built a structure that suited him. His style and his qualities. Times might have changed but, more than a quarter of a century on, the same is true for Moyes.

Trying to be Ferguson, trying to fill his shoes, is an impossible job. But that doesn't mean another manager can't also find a way to be a success at Old Trafford.

Ferguson craved control, to run the club from top to bottom. And he used it to win trophies and titles.

Moyes' ultimate aim, to win, is the same as his predecessor's. But there are different ways of getting to the same place.

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