Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 March 2018

Moyes banks on fear factor for United success

New boss admits replacing Alex Ferguson is daunting task but he is confident he can continue Red Devils' trophy-laden tradition

Manchester United's Robin van Persie challenges Danny Welbeck during a training session ahead of their friendly against Yokohama F Marinos
Manchester United's Robin van Persie challenges Danny Welbeck during a training session ahead of their friendly against Yokohama F Marinos

Mark Ogden

David Moyes was sat at the top table of a £250-a-head dinner in the Grand Ballroom of Sydney's Westin Hotel when the enormity of managing Manchester United, and the accompanying fear and doubt, hit home.

Having sat through a five-minute montage chronicling United's history, from Billy Meredith to the Busby Babes, through three European Cups and the Alex Ferguson era, the microphone under Moyes' nose caught a clearly audible "Wow!" from the former Everton manager.

Nervous laughter followed, then came an admission that he had taken on a huge challenge at United, yet while Moyes appears to be rapidly growing into his role as he embraces the on and off-field demands that come with the club's pre-season tours, he admits that fear and doubt have coursed through his veins since succeeding Ferguson at the end of last season.

"I tell you, there's not one person who would turn around and say 'Taking over Manchester United, you think you can walk in there and breeze in and think you can do it easily?'," Moyes said.

"Of course not. There has to be an element of fear that comes with managing a club like Manchester United. It keeps you working, it keeps you focused and helps you try not to take your eye off the ball.

"You would have doubt if anybody took over this job, but in my own way, I've got to say I feel it's the right job for me at the right time and hopefully I'll make it work."

He said nervous excitement "is more to do with the magnitude of Manchester United and following arguably the greatest manager that football has ever known.

"You cannot see any manager thinking that would be an easy job, but in the same breath it is a great one because of what I have available and what he has left."

What Ferguson has left, aside from a team who begin the new season as Premier League champions, is a dressing-room of players whose medal count and experience of winning hands Moyes a unique challenge.

Bright and highly regarded he may be, but the 50-year-old has yet to win a major honour as a manager, hence his decision to elevate Ryan Giggs to player-coach and provide a bridge between the squad and his new backroom staff.

But with asserting his authority the first task of any manager, Moyes concedes there will be some members of the United squad sizing up his credentials.

"I think every footballer I have worked with judged the manager," Moyes said. "They want to see if he can earn his stripes, they want to see if he can coach, if he can make decisions.

"The players will soon look at that and look to see if they think you can do it. The biggest thing I've noticed is the competitive nature of these players. In training, whatever we do, I just see winners written all over them.

"I have been incredibly impressed about how they have gone about their work.

"They're enjoying it and they're asking for more in a way. But they could be testing me, to see if I've got the materials to do the job, because that's what top footballers do."

So little surprise then that Moyes admits to tinkering with his managerial approach prior to walking into the United dressing-room for the first time.

"A little bit, yes, because I'm looking at players who are winners, who have been an incredibly successful team over the years," Moyes said.

"I'm looking to say I've got to make sure I learn from them, I don't know it all.

"I remember when I got the Everton job after Preston and being asked, 'How do you feel now as manager of Everton?' I said, 'I don't know – I might have got worse, because I don't need to shout as much anymore, I'm not quite as intense as I was.'

"But I actually think it's because the level of player steps up, and I'm feeling that here as well."

With Moyes preparing for his third game in charge today as United face Yokohama F-Marinos in Japan, his players are beginning to adjust to the new manager's demands. There is a greater emphasis on fitness, with regular double training sessions in between jet-lag and commercial obligations, and Moyes has already been pictured delivering a forceful team talk to his squad during the first leg of the tour in Bangkok.

They may all be Ferguson's players, with no additions yet made to the team, but Moyes insists his own era has now begun and that the team is his, rather than his predecessor's.

"It is my team now," Moyes said. "I have taken over, I'm in charge. I will use the ex-manager as much as I can because of his knowledge, but it is my team now and I have to take responsibility for that.

"From day one, it was my team and I have to get on and show that. I need it to be David Moyes' era, so that meant me taking some of my own people (coaches) but I couldn't do it without the help of Ryan Giggs.

"It has to be a new era and, whatever we say, my job now is to make my history.

"I'm going to be following someone who has made incredible history – I think about Matt Busby's history and then Alex Ferguson's history – they could do a film about it.

"I have to make sure that my history and my time is something which the fans and people in the future talk about.

"It is difficult, but I think Alex knows that we are here to follow good managers, but the one thing about it is that he left me with the best team in England and said, 'Go on, take it on, build on it and try and make it better'."

Moyes is attempting to make it better by adding Cesc Fabregas to a midfield department which the manager believes lacks depth and creative quality, but progress has been slow, with two bids now lodged for the Barcelona player. Marouane Fellaini and Luka Modric are other targets, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale also being pursued, despite a growing acceptance at United that both will be incredibly difficult to lure from their present clubs this summer.

There is the possibility that the season will begin without new faces, but Moyes admits that, with new additions or not, he has to win his first trophy as a manager.

"That matters," Moyes said. "It matters because it's important I do that and get it put to bed. And it does matter which trophy it is because, if I'd won the Singha Cup (in Bangkok) it would have been very good, but you know it wouldn't have counted.

"The Community Shield? I would have thought that is a trophy that, if Manchester United went on to win, that would be one of Alex Ferguson's, because he got the team there and gave them a chance to play for that.

"So I'm actually hoping to look at the other trophies. That's my target."

Moyes will require multiple trophies at United to join Ferguson and Busby in the pantheon of Old Trafford royalty, but he admits he feels another burden, as a Glaswegian, to continue the line of great Scottish managers.

"I'd really like that," Moyes said. "Not just because of the history of Scottish managers, but I think there has been a succession of them – Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Matt, George Graham – you could go on and on.

"There have been some really good Scottish managers at the highest level, so if I could in some way be tagged on to the end of that list, because I'd been successful at Manchester United, then I'd be delighted.

"It's not pressure, but I think they're actually saying, 'We're passing the baton on to you, it's for you take the baton up and be successful'. I think that's the way it has been."

So as he prepares for a baptism of fire with United facing Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, during the first five games of the new season, what has been the best advice he has received since taking the job?

"'You'll do it easy,' but I'm not saying who it was," Moyes said. "I don't take that as a given, because I know it's going to be really hard at Manchester United. I know that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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