Has the last hurdle been cleared allowing Everton's Dave Moyes to succeed Sir Alex as the next United manager?
Jose Mourinho is the bookmakers' clear front runner. He has an outstanding, trophy-laden CV, a wealth of experience in the Champions League, and the media profile that would suggest he is undaunted by the challenge of filling Sir Alex's gargantuan shoes.
What the "Special One" is said to lack, especially since leaving Porto, is a reputation for sending out teams which play "good" football, promoting youth and building a team on a shoestring budget, all useful credentials for the next United boss.
The odds on Bordeaux boss Laurent Blanc taking over as United boss will shorten by the month, unless he takes over as coach to the French national team. Martin O'Neill has his backers too but the smart money may now be on Moyes.
His latest audition for the United job—a 3-1 home victory over the heavy-legged, exhausted champions—advertised many of the qualities he would bring to the Red Kingdom.
Over the past eight years, the “Moyessiah” has built a fine team on Merseyside, kept the side competitive as the Premiership became ever more cut-throat and invested shrewdly in the transfer market.
Notably, Moyes has shown an ability to develop players. Lescott, Arteta, Cahill, and Fellaini stand out. The manner in which Saha is thriving and the nurturing of the unheralded Pienaar into one of the Premiership's most effective midfielders trumpet the Everton manager's undoubted ability.
Moyes' impact on Merseyside has not gone unnoticed at Old Trafford.
"David hasn’t got the credit he deserves," Ferguson told the press last April. "When you take everything into consideration, he’s done an incredible job at Everton.
"He has not had the resources of other clubs but got all his younger players on long contracts and built around them with the likes of Phil Jagielka, Tim Cahill, and Joleon Lescott.
"The signings he has made have been terrific and it means he has continuity for years."
Fergie's warm words and the regular headlines linking Moyes to the United job have surely made an impression on the 47-year-old Scot. Their relationship goes back to Drumchapel Amateurs, a Scottish youth club where Ferguson once played and where Moyes’s father was a coach.
"I spoke to Sir Alex about the No. 2 job but wasn't offered it and I've gone on to do what I had to do,'' Moyes told the Telegraph last April. ''I would have liked the chance to see The Man working and be around him. I always try to get as much information as I can to regurgitate and see what I can do with it.
"The best thing that could happen is if Alex stays around for another three or four years, He is a flag-bearer for us all. He’s the greatest export from Scotland, apart from the whisky.”
Moyes' deference is as cute as it is genuine. He may play up Sir Alex as his role model but Moyes is smart enough to deflect talk of the succession,
"Who was linked with the United job last year, two years ago?” he asked a Times press man. “Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce. It just depends what moment you are at. It changes every year."
The coyness is justified. Moyes profile as future United helmsman is undermined by critical failings in his record. Moyes has yet to win a significant trophy. He has limited Champions League experience and his ability to work successfully amid the huge player egos of elite football is unproven.
Losing last season's FA Cup Final was a serious blot on Moyes' resumé raising the suspicion that he can not win the big matches that count,
However, it is the reputed troubled relationship with United's key player Wayne Rooney that is likely to be the gravest concern in the Old Trafford boardroom.
It was Moyes who brought Rooney through the ranks at Everton and who sold him to United for £27 million. It was also Moyes who felt he had been libelled in Rooney's tell-all autobiography My Story So Far and who sued the United star in the High Court in June 2008. Moyes won a small fortune which he donated to charity.
It is unprecedented for a Premier League manager to sue a former player for libel. Moyes' law suit ruined football "kiss and tell" books for a generation.
The bad blood between Moyes and Rooney lingered,
However, the Times reports that the dispute is now at an end following a "phone call from an apologetic Wayne Rooney."
Moyes said: “Wayne phoned me up a year ago to apologise and to say that the things he’d put in his book were wrong, and he’d made a mistake.
"I had to give him a lot of credit for that. For me it showed his maturity, and he thanked us for the help that had been given to him at Everton.
“The court case had been won anyway, so it was over as far as I was concerned, but I said to him, ‘No problem, that’s fine. It just shows the maturity and where you’re coming to.’ Now he’s the one who’s sorting out the young players at Man United."
It is inconceivable that United would install a new manager who was unable to form a working relationship with the club's leading player.
With that formidable obstacle removed, Moyes' chances of landing Britain's top job are surely strengthened.
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