David Moyes was well aware of the challenge in replacing arguably the greatest British football manager there has ever been. And then the fixture list came out…and that challenge got even more difficult.
In the days following the former Everton manager’s appointment at Manchester United, one point was made more than any other.
He won’t get the time his predecessor was gifted, they said. Two straight losses and he could be doomed when he has barely begun.
The fact Moyes signed a six-year contract went some way to dispelling that feeling. Here was a club that understood the importance of stability; that had reaped its benefits for over two decades.
But there is no denying the fact that the new manager’s initial games are crucial; and that his first loss (especially if it comes early) will be analysed in far greater depth than most suffered under Ferguson.
A Premier League opener away to Swansea City is not a terrible beginning. It won’t be easy, with the Liberty Stadium becoming something of the proverbial fortress, but it could have been far worse.
Like consecutive away matches to your two biggest rivals, the first of which is just a week after a home game against a Jose-Mourinho-powered Chelsea.
The simple fact is, apart from a home game against Crystal Palace, United’s first five league matches next season are very, very tough. And that first defeat Moyes will be so desperate not to suffer – he will have to work damn hard to avoid it.
Of course the speed with which the champions will need to hit the ground could work in the new manager’s favour. It doesn’t get much bigger than a home game against Chelsea and away matches to Liverpool and Manchester City.
And when you compare that opening with the one Sir Alex Ferguson was faced with years before he was a Sir, there is no comparison.
Ferguson’s first five league matches were away games against Oxford United, Norwich City and Wimbledon – from which only a single point was gained – and home matches against QPR and Tottenham – which saw one draw and one win.
If Moyes wins only one of his first five games it will be the fieriest of baptisms. But if he navigates that tough beginning, he could lay the foundations on which his own legacy can slowly but steadily be built.
Do you believe Moyes can navigate that difficult beginning undefeated? And how many points do you think he will have won after those five games?
image: © Jason Gulledge