It has been a bit of a whirlwind week for David Moyes in his new job, facing more cameras than ever before, attempting to meet as many Manchester United employees as possible before introducing himself to the team, and trying to suppress a grin of delight when taking his first proprietorial stroll around the Carrington acres after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.
It has never been too difficult to detect a note of hero worship when Moyes talks of Ferguson and for that very reason there was never any danger he would turn down United's offer or bide his time and let someone else be the first to suffer by comparison.
"I heard so many people saying 'you don't want to follow Sir Alex', lots of good managers said that would be a bad idea," he said. "But it is different once you are actually offered the job. I think anyone would want to take it on, because of what it is. Sir Alex has left me a very good team, some great players, and he has been really supportive, as has everyone else at the club. As soon as I knew that I was the candidate Sir Alex wanted, that I was his choice for the job, I never had any doubts, because believe me I'll never get a bigger confidence boost. Who wouldn't want Sir Alex as a mentor and adviser?"
Ferguson was famously granted four years in which to win his first trophy but United are a very different proposition today and Moyes doubts if he will get anything like as long. "I don't even think managers can ask for time any more," he said. "All you can ask is to be judged in the right manner. I don't plan on changing my managerial style too much. I'm hard-working, I put the time in. The reason I got here was because of the way I was at Everton. I think that's the right way and I'm hoping just to carry on being myself."
Moyes takes his players on a tour of the Far East next week, which will mainly serve the purpose of getting to know the players. "I've not been used to such a big squad before but I know the hardest part of being a manager is telling a player he is not in the team," he said. "But then again you play a lot more matches when you are Manchester United, so everyone should get a chance."
Strange as the first few days have been, however, they could not possibly be any stranger than the week towards the end of last season when Moyes knew he was to be the new United manager but could not tell anyone. "I've got to say that was the strangest time of all," he said. "Apart from anything else I was still Everton manager and we had a game coming up against Liverpool. When we played that derby it was at the back of my mind that, if we could get a result, we could probably finish above Liverpool, so it was important. But I also knew I was the new United manager. That was as difficult a day as I've ever had. There were all sorts of things going through my head."
Apart from Sir Alex and perhaps a handful of people at United, only one other person was in on the secret: Moyes' wife, Pamela. "I've heard it said that I had known for months but nothing could be further from the truth," Moyes said. "I can still recall the day it all happened quite vividly. It was the Thursday before we played Liverpool on the Sunday. I was out with my wife. The phone rang and it was Sir Alex. He asked whether I could drop by at his house. I assumed he might ask me to take someone on loan or want to buy one of my players but I didn't care about that as much as the fact that I had my jeans on. I was just in jeans and a T-shirt, so I thought I'd drive home and get changed but my wife said there wouldn't be time. So I dropped her at a shopping centre and set off on my own feeling uncomfortable, because ordinarily I would never, ever, go to a meeting with Sir Alex with a pair of jeans on. Had I known what was coming I would have felt even worse, but I had no idea.
"I got to the house and Sir Alex took me up the stairs, made a cup of tea, then told me what was happening. I'll never forget it for the rest of my life. He said he was retiring, in a week's time, and I was the next United manager. My wife knew something was up the minute I picked her up again; I must have been acting strangely. She asked me what was the matter and I told her I was the Manchester United manager. I'm afraid I can't repeat what she said. We both agreed not to say anything to the kids, although I did let them in on the secret the following Tuesday, when the story began to break. They were made up, as was my dad, who follows me everywhere. It was a big thing for the whole family, because it is a great honour to be the manager of this club."
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image: © Jason Gulledge