On the 09th of May 2013, Manchester United Football Club formally announced that Everton manager David Moyes would be replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. For any United fan, young or old, this was huge. Sir Alex Ferguson had been the man at the heart of all things United for over 25 years. The trophy cabinet that Ferguson had built during his tenure boasted 13 Premier League titles, two UEFA Champions League titles and countless FA Cup's and League Cup trophies.
So when Sir Alex announced his retirement at the end of the 2012/2013 season, many United fans had cause to be concerned. Naturally the first question on everybody's lips was, who would replace him? Bookies had a number of potential candidates for the job; former Chelsea man Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Borussia Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp and even United old boy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was being tipped with an outside chance.
The man that eventually took the job was fellow Scot, David Moyes. As one of the few managers in the Premier League to have eclipsed the 400-game mark, Moyes was generally considered as one of the most underrated managers of recent years. Having consistently maintained Everton's status as a top flight club for 11 years, Moyes had proved a fiercely loyal and (albeit limited) successful manager working with an incredibly tight budget. Everton have never been a notoriously rich club - they do not benefit from the ludicrous wealth of a Middle Eastern Sheikh, like at Manchester City - but Moyes always succeeded in assembling a spirited side that consistently finished on the fringes of Champions League qualification.
David Moyes officially started the job at United on the 01st of July 2013 on a bumper six-year contract. The Board of Directors certainly had faith, despite widespread anxiety amongst the United support. Upon signing, this is what the Scot had to say "I know how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever, but the opportunity to manage Manchester United isn't something that comes around very often and I'm really looking forward to taking up the post next season."
The reign of David Moyes at Manchester United started well. His first 'competitive' (a term used rather loosely here) game in charge was in the Community Shield against FA Cup winners, Wigan Athletic, which United won 2-0. Less than a week later, United headed to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea in their opening match of the Premier League season. It finished a 4-1 win for Moyes's side, with Van Persie and Welbeck opening their goalscoring accounts early.
United looked strong. Moyes looked comfortable. Any notion of anxiety and pressure seemed to subside. Of course, this was before United suffered their worst ever start to a Premier League season, dropping points against Southampton and losing at home to West Bromwich Albion. Evidently, the first big test of Moyes' management was at the Etihad in the first Machester derby of the season. It was new territory for both managers and to say that Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini came out on top would be a huge understatement.
Dishevelled, disjointed and unimposing, United were completely trounced 4-1 by Pellegrini's men. The defeat sent shockwaves across the footballing world. The red half of Manchester wasn't just defeated, it was embarrassed. Talking to BBC Sport during his post match interview, the most rousing comment Moyes could muster was "It is one game. There are plenty more to come and plenty of time to fix it."
Despite being 9th in the Premier League table, trailing a hefty 12 points behind league-leaders Arsenal, United have recently looked to ignite some form. Securing qualification in the Champions League with a game to spare, complimentary of a five goal rout over Bayer Leverkusen a couple weeks ago, has roused the United camp. Morale was certainly boosted and an unbeaten run of 12 games looked to be gaining momentum at a crucial point in the season.
Last night Manchester United welcomed Moyes's former club, Everton, to Old Trafford. Roberto Martinez, the man who took over from Moyes, has enjoyed some success this season already. The acquisition of Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku on transfer deadline day has proven a hit as the Belgian man has been in fine form, plundering eight goals in nine league appearances.
United came into the game looking to extend their 12-game unbeaten run, whilst Everton were eager to secure vital points in pushing for the top four. If there was a game Moyes would have wanted to win, this would have been it. At home, in front of the United faithful, this was a chance to move up the table and get one over on his old club.
It wasn't to be. As fate would have it, United lost 1-0. Hitting the post twice, and forcing Howard into some acrobatic saves of magnificent quality, Everton rode their luck for 80 minutes of the game before new signing Bryan Oviedo slotted one past David De Gea. Any hopes of salvaging a point were lost as referee Martin Atkinson blew the final whistle.
There seems to be a recurring theme to United's season so far. An inability to maintain goal advantages explains a number of sloppy defeats, whilst a lack of attacking flair and intent highlights United's current incapacity to finish off games. It could be argued Moyes has simply been unlucky in his opening few months as United boss. A number of last minute goals and rather unfortunate decisions have marred what could have been a promising start to the young Scot's Manchester reign.
Though I am not making excuses. If Moyes wants to recover this season and steady the fast-sinking United ship, there are a number of things he should solve. And fast. Firstly, get Robin Van Persie fit and firing. The Dutchman has been sorely missed, despite Rooney's fine form, and his goals would be a welcomed boost. Secondly, find a solution for Marouane Fellaini. I'm still unsure as to what he offers as a player. He looks out of his depth, insecure and at £27.5 million, his hefty price tag looks entirely unjustified. Thirdly, invest during the January transfer window. I'm not usually a fan of mid-season spending, but United's squad desperately requires some fresh legs. An injection of youth and creativity in the middle of park might go some way to solving United's dithering season.
No-one said replacing Ferguson would be easy. David Moyes is certainly finding that out the hard way. But I still believe he has time. Manchester United are not about to become another 'hire and fire' club, much like Chelsea, despite rife rumours of a Moyes departure circulating in the press. A realistic target for this year would be a place in the top four. Anything more would be a bonus. Anything less...well, I don't even want to think about that just yet.