David Moyes starts the biggest challenge of his life when he takes over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United on July 1. But, believe me, he will have met the United players before then. And, when he does address his superstar Premier League champions for the first time, David will be telling them: “I’m here to make it business as usual. Let’s keep up the good work.” The likes of Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand, players who have been there, done it, worn several of the T-shirts, don’t need to be told they’d better start doing things differently!
This is not a situation like the one that confronted Andreas Villas-Boas when he took over at Chelsea 12 months ago when, it seems, he had a mandate to make sweeping changes. Moyes, who already has the public approval of players like Ferdinand – and, of course, Ferguson who nominated him as his successor – will stress he has no need, nor intention, to bulldoze his way into the biggest job in club football. David’s first major issue is Wayne Rooney’s future. There has been no denial from Rooney of the stories claiming he wants to leave the club, so David will need to sit down with the player and his agent Paul Stretford and sort out the situation. David will, of course, be armed with Alex Ferguson’s take on the affair and it just might be that Rooney’s days at Old Trafford are numbered.
Certainly, Rooney would not be missed if United have lined up a sensational move for their former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and, or, Borussia Dortmund’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, the man who destroyed Ronaldo’s Real Madrid with all four goals in their Champions League semi-final first leg 4-1 win two weeks ago. Wayne’s role seems to have changed from the all-action forward he was when he arrived at United to a more mature, more withdrawn operator. Whether that is more in Wayne’s mind than Alex’s, who knows? But it is a fact that Wayne has been in and out of the team and playing in different positions and this may be a factor in Rooney’s reported unsettled state of mind. Someone will be happy to pay around £30m for Rooney, who should be in his prime in his late 20′s, and that might be seen as good business at United.
And, if United are, indeed, aiming to bring back Ronaldo, who has been blitzing La Liga defences for the past four years and for whom Real will want their money back, it is feasible it could be a self-financing deal, with the potential sale of players like winger Nani, striker Chicarito – and Rooney. I don’t see Moyes raiding Everton for players, though I do think Leighton Baines, the best left-back in the country, could join his boss at United. Everton’s Marouane Fellaini is being touted for the big move, but I’m not convinced the Belgian is what United need, either in midfield or up front. Nor do I see a wholesale switch of backroom staffs, though don’t be surprised if David wants his Goodison assistant Steve Round to stay with him. At United, the backroom structure is as sound as the playing side and I’m sure Alex will have pushed the job security of the people who have served him so well. There is also the Phill Neville factor. I know David thinks a lot of Phil, who is from the same mould, a man who gets in to training early, gets the players up for it and who, like his Sky pundit brother Gary, has an excellent knowledge of the game. Phil made 386 appearances for United before joining Everton eight years ago – and he might be a candidate for the Goodison job. He could well get an interview, though I feel such a huge step would be too soon without experienced support.
For Moyes, the biggest concerns, aside of the Rooney issue, will be the age of Rio Ferdinand, at 34, and the injury issues that plague him and his centre-back partner Nemanja Vidic. United have marvellous, young defenders coming through, like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, but Moyes might be tempted to try to take his Everton stalwart Phil Jagielka as insurance. Meantime, David Moyes’ biggest challenge is to get the players’ respect on the training pitch. I’m sure he’ll do that.