He lent a comforting hand to Paul Gascoigne when the player was on the verge of breaking down, dismissed David Ginola when he became a little too hot to handle and even dared to challenge Duncan Ferguson. He got his team out of the woods many a times and made Everton a force to reckon with. Not for nothing, he became the Premier Leagues manager of the year three times (2003, 2005 and 2009) in the last 11 years.
So why is he looking so out of his depth at United Is it because hes overawed by the magnitude of his new job Whatever the reason, he seems to have lost his ruthless streak.
Its completely a different ball game, managing the worlds most popular football club, but Moyes was handpicked by Ferguson because he was good enough. He needs to justify that faith and he cant do that by being inert.
Fergusons continuous presence upstairs is definitely a hindrance. With the Great Scots shadow still looming over Old Trafford, Moyes is hesitating to assert his authority. But he has to do that. Otherwise, he will lose his job.
Alan Hansen has rightly said this ageing United team needs an overhaul. This is notwithstanding the fact that they won the League last season by an 11-point margin over their noisy neighbours. But Moyes appears to be a little afraid to wield the axe. Hes sticking to Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick after doing poorly in the transfer market. All those fading stars need to be phased out from the first team. His predecessor always gave youth a chance. Time for Moyes to rely more heavily on the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha.
He started off well by being very assertive on the Wayne Rooney issue. He stood firm against Chelseas adventurism and ensured that Rooney stayed with the Reds. But inexplicably, he became submissive in the dressing room.
Lack of European experience/success is a big negative for Moyes. Its really difficult for someone who has virtually won nothing to throw down the gauntlet at the big players who have won everything that football can offer. But at the end of the day, Moyes is the United manager and must have the last word.
In his interview with the American broadcaster PBS, Ferguson talked about his management style in present tense: I tell them this, I tell them that. There was clear indication hes still keeping a close watch on the team which he built and rebuilt in his 27 years as the manager. He made United a serial winner. But reassuringly for Moyes, Ferguson ruled out a return to the dugout.
So theres an opportunity for the new manager to change the squad and make it his own. The Glazers have promised him a war chest in January. But Moyes must revive Uniteds flagging fortunes to be there when the New Year arrives.
Unlike the nouveau riche, United dont change their manager at the drop of a hat. That Moyes has been handed a six-year contract suggests that the Old Trafford bosses want him to be the new Ferguson. Even the unsuccessful managers (by Uniteds standards) like Frank OFarrell (81 matches), Tommy Docherty (228 matches), Dave Sexton (201 matches) and Ron Atkinson (292 matches) were given substantial periods at the club.
Fergusons first four years, too, were unproductive. 3 years of excuses and its still crap, ta ra Fergie... read a banner at Old Trafford in 1989. But the insiders knew what was happening and stood by him. The rest was history.
The problem is that the situation has changed now. Commerce has become all-important. Ferguson made United one of the worlds biggest brands and the club owner will surely be concerned if the brand value drops.
United are now placed 12th in the League standings after losing three of their first six matches. A top four finish looks uncertain, let alone a successful title defence. Not qualifying for the Champions League will mean a loss of 30 million and a big slide in the clubs global fan base. Its very unlikely that the Glazers will allow that to happen. If United are still out of the top four by Christmas, Moyes future will become hugely uncertain.
Moyes, however, has the ability to improve things. A good manager cannot become a bad one overnight. But success or failure, he will have to go about his task on his own terms. He has to stop looking over his shoulder and care too much about what Ferguson is thinking.
Moyes has already made a big mistake by saying that this United team doesnt have the class to win the Champions League. Its the attitude of a defeatist. Also, it would have been wiser to retain some of the old support staff, especially Rene Meulensteen, who knew these players inside out. But now theres no point pondering over the mistakes.
Moyes has to look to the future. He can turn things around provided he dispels the image of an anointed successor and becomes a leader.