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Wednesday 23 October 2019

Alan Hansen: Ferguson's gift to Moyes may be a poisoned chalice

With Alex Ferguson now the former Manchester United manager, the club will witness the dawn of a new era and sustaining success at Old Trafford will be a really hard job for David Moyes.

Moyes is a top-class manager, one of the very best, and there is no way that anybody in his position would ever dream of turning down a six-year contract to manage United.

But I believe he would have been better served had he taken the job on with a different United team to the one he inherits from Ferguson.

Ferguson has been unbelievably clever in recent weeks by telling the world that United are in the best position they could possibly be in, with the current squad ready to prolong the success he has masterminded for the last 20 years.

But after saying all of that, he has then gone and announced his retirement. He has set the scene for the future, but outside of Old Trafford people are wondering whether this group of players he has left behind really are capable of dominating as Ferguson's team have done in the past.

STRENGTH

United have greater strength in depth than Manchester City and Chelsea and they remain the best when it comes to winning when performing poorly. That is why they won the Premier League by some distance this season.

But I believe City and Chelsea have stronger starting line-ups than United and, if they add to their squads this summer, they will pose a much sterner test next season and make Moyes' first campaign a much more difficult one.

The threat posed by wealthy rivals and the challenge of keeping a winning team on top are just two of the issues that Moyes must overcome if he is to make a success of his move to United. It will not be easy and the first six to eight weeks of next season will be crucial.

When he walks into the United dressing-room for the first time, he will encounter big-time players who have won everything in the game playing for a club who have won everything. Despite his excellent record at Everton and the credit he deserves for that, Moyes has not won a major trophy as a top-flight manager, so he will have to earn the respect of the United squad.

Footballers do not take long to gauge a new manager – sometimes you can tell within 15 seconds whether he is the right man – and there will be a percentage of the United squad who will operate on a 'wait and see' basis with Moyes.

The fact that Ryan Giggs has spoken of the support that Moyes will receive from United's senior players is crucial because the most experienced, and best, players are the ones who will determine everything.

If they are happy and confident in the new man, the rest of the dressing-room will follow. And a key element to ensuring that the dressing-room remains strong and does not fragment will be Moyes' readiness to leave things largely as they are and resist the temptation to make big changes.

He will obviously want to tweak things and assert his authority and personality on the team, but if he goes in there and tells everybody they must do things another way, it will alienate players, so he has to be extremely careful. If Moyes is really cute, he will make changes slowly because he cannot risk upsetting a strong, united dressing-room that has won titles because of that unity and close-knit mentality.

Addressing Wayne Rooney's future is also a crucial task that Moyes will have to deal with quickly and I believe he must do everything possible to keep the player at the club. The two have history from their time together at Everton, but Moyes has spoken publicly about how they have patched things up and he praised Rooney's ability when asked about him last week.

In football, you often have to be pragmatic for the sake of the club and the team and Moyes has to work at getting Rooney to commit himself to United. I cannot believe that any of Rooney's team-mates will want him to leave because they know that United will not be able to replace his talent and work ethic.

Manchester United and David Moyes would be in a stronger position with Rooney in the team next season and ensuring that happens will be one of the new manager's most important objectives.

However, what will ultimately shape Moyes' prospects of success will be the way he deals with his first two months. From the first meeting with the players, he has to impress them because an initial impression is usually a lasting one.

He will need to ensure that the team make a strong start to the season to avoid a clamour from the supporters for Ferguson to return at the first sign of turbulence and for the more basic reason that, while a title cannot be won in the autumn, it can be lost.

Ferguson's retirement has opened the door to a fantastic opportunity for Moyes, but it will not be an easy challenge and the hard work starts now. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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