David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson’s United
This summer I had to ask myself a question. A question that had just never occurred to me before. Like many people in their early thirties and younger, I was facing my first season as a Manchester United fan with a new manager. After a solid decade of the gaffer telling people ‘Three more years’ whenever retirement was brought up, the question I had to ask myself was ‘Am I a United fan, or an Alex Ferguson fan?’
Does that sound ridiculous? Maybe you’re thinking the answer is both of course. But having never known another man at the helm, and having seen him guide them to achievements that were often well above expectations it was suddenly a credible thing to consider. My first thought on a new manager was that it would be like if I went to visit my parents only to find my mum introducing the gentleman from next door as the successor to my dad. This seemed to be a common theme with other reds whose football lives had been dominated by the ultimate patriarch.
Ultimately the club did not feel they had to wait for these issues to be resolved in my mind and life went on. I could only keep going through my usual pre-season rituals, scouring twitter for transfer rumours, playing football manager, even eventually going outside to see the sun thingy everyone was going on about. One day I discovered a link online for an interview with David Moyes from a radio show. The manager of Manchester United was doing an interview on his telephone with people on the radio.
That was almost unheard of! It felt like I was getting some kind of secret vantage point to see the inner sanctum of Old Trafford. Of course barely anything was given away in the interview but the sudden introduction of direct contact between the manager and the media felt exciting and unusual. It took me back to the late ‘80s and my first trip to Old Trafford when nothing had yet been achieved and everything was left to prove. When I’d summoned the courage to say hello to Sir Bobby inside the stadium and wondered at everything he represented about the club’s history. When the trophy cabinet was bare but my love was pure.
Then I remembered my dad’s video history of United that I had played ad infinitum as a 6 year old boy. The video from which I learned about inauspicious beginnings, bombed-out grounds, the boys of ’58 and the men of ’68, the dearth of success in the 70s. Then I caught myself getting too damned sentimental about history. Nostalgia is an illness and is best left for another club’s fans.
However, I had answered the question that was plaguing me.
Manchester United will always have a proud and important history, but a great club needs to concern itself more with the present and the future. That present and that future is under the new manager. In the next few weeks, months, probably years we will keep hearing Moyes being compared to Sir Alex. But it’s not only his job to handle the expectation, it’s the players, the training staff, the board, – most importantly it’s us. We, the fans need to emerge from Fergie’s shadow. We need to ignore the press, the opposition, the ABUs. As the great man, the man who guided us through a quarter century of history told us, look to the future- “Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important.”
Written by Ross Armstrong who you can follow on twitter @RossAArmstrong