Soccer

Man United replaces Ferguson with Moyes as manager

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The Canadian Press
5/9/2013 2:12:23 PM
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MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United has replaced an abrasive and tough-minded Scotsman with ... another abrasive and tough-minded Scotsman.

In fact, the similarities between Alex Ferguson and David Moyes are so numerous that it's uncanny.

They were born six miles (10 kilometres) from each other in working-class Glasgow. Their fathers were employed by the same shipbuilding company. They were both decent club players but neither played for their national team. They both have a passion for horse racing, co-owning horses. They both own raging tempers and a fiercely competitive work ethic.

And, of course, they are both brilliant managers -- loyal, committed to developing young players and keen to play an attacking brand of football.

The phrase "cut from the same cloth" has been doing the rounds in Britain as pundits, fans and former players assessed the likelihood of Moyes replacing Ferguson as manager of one of the world's biggest clubs.

In the end, it was never really in doubt.

"He has a near-identical work ethic, character, competitiveness to that of Sir Alex," said former England manager Steve McClaren, who used to be Ferguson's assistant at United. "It's the master and the apprentice."

Ferguson recommended Moyes as his replacement, 15 years after approaching his compatriot to become his assistant. That Moyes turned him down, focusing instead on being a manager in his own right, shows the kind of character United has taken on.

Moyes is Ferguson minus the experience and the trophies. In fact, it's the lack of silverware on his CV that will lead to some raising their eyebrows at his appointment. But that would be missing the point.

Under the circumstances and given Everton's skimpy budget, the 50-year-old Moyes has done a fine job at Goodison Park, finishing in the top six on four occasions after taking over in 2002 with the club staring relegation in the face. Since 2007, Everton has always placed eighth or higher. Over time, some of the football his teams have played has been attractive.

"We have had a really good 11 years with David and it's my and the club's job to find a worthy successor and build on what David has quite definitely brought to the football club and move on from there," said Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, who appeared close to tears as he discussed the departure of his long-time manager and close friend.

"I'm pretty convinced that Evertonians will only look upon David Moyes with gratitude and admiration."

That Moyes will have a chance to attempt the same with world-class players at United also makes it a triumph for British football, as British managers have long been passed over for the big jobs in the Premier League.

A solid defender who started his professional career at Celtic before flitting around low-profile clubs in England and Scotland, Moyes appeared a natural fit as a coach and started his managerial career in 1999 at Preston North End -- his final club as a player.

Preston was in English football's third tier at the time and gained promotion under Moyes in his second full season. In 2002, he became manager of Everton, which had lost its way after rivaling Liverpool as England's biggest team in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Everton twice narrowly avoided relegation in Moyes' first three years before he came into his own in the 2004-05 season -- the first after the departure of Wayne Rooney to United -- by breaking the cartel of the so-called 'Big Four' of United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and finishing fourth, ahead of Liverpool. However, Everton failed to get past Villarreal in the final qualifying round of the Champions League and Moyes is yet to sample Europe's top competition.

That he has survived 10 full seasons at one Premier League club in the current climate of impatience and short-termism is testament not only to Moyes' skill but also the closeness of his relationship with Kenwright. By giving him a six-year deal, United is also ready to give him time.

Moyes has become more amiable as the years have progressed. Once quite a stern figure, he is now charming and approachable. He has spent time as a pundit for BBC radio in the last couple of seasons and has also written insightful columns in the Sunday Times newspaper, often about European and world football.

In fact, it was to Europe -- and, more specifically, Germany -- where Moyes was expected to head after completing his stint at Everton.

"I always had the hope of being a coach abroad -- if I had the choice, I would probably go to Germany, in part because of the mentality, which is similar to mine," Moyes told France Football magazine in December.

If that was just a ruse to entice the big teams in England, it may just have worked.

Moyes preaches the values of stability and good football, just as Ferguson has. What he now needs to add is a winner's mentality. He'll know there will be no transitional period at a huge club like United, and the presence of Ferguson in the directors' box -- and his name on the stand that faces the dugouts at Old Trafford -- will always be a reminder of the job he has taken on.

United believes Moyes is ready for it.

"I have no doubt that he will bring an energy and commitment to deliver winning football that is part of the fabric of this club," United vice chairman Ed Woodward said in welcoming Moyes to Old Trafford. "In this respect, he is cut from the same cloth as the Old Trafford greats who go before him."

Ferguson will wholeheartedly agree.

David Moyes (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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