By Josh Reich
LONDON, Aug 16 (Reuters) – In a private, revealing moment, David Moyes checked to make sure he did not look silly sitting in his predecessor’s Old Trafford chair.
He knows the great man is laid up at home after hip surgery but even so, the new Manchester United manager starts the season acutely aware of Alex Ferguson’s presence.
Moyes has made it clear he sees this as a new era – his era – even though when he launches the club’s Premier League title defence at Swansea on Saturday, it will be with Ferguson’s players, reputation and mindset.
The retired Ferguson has swapped his seat in the dugout for the directors’ box but with Moyes still approaching him for advice and possibly even help with new signings, the manager who led United to 13 league titles is still pulling many strings.
When the former Everton manager faces the media he mentions his fellow Scot numerous times and with his hints of a Premier League conspiracy to give United a difficult set of starting fixtures, Moyes is already sounding like an echo of Ferguson.
“Sir Alex is still here and he will be,” Moyes told reporters with a glare as steely as his predecessor.
“I went to see him at home the other day. He was great. He is recovering from his hip operation. I will use him for advice. He will be a great mentor for me. I am really looking forward to speaking with him.”
With United having so far failed to land a big-name signing in the close season, while title rivals Manchester City have splurged on four, Moyes may need to call on Ferguson for more than just some tips.
“This club has ways and means of attracting the top players… and if we needed to use Sir Alex he would be more than happy to help, I have no doubt about that,” Moyes said.
While the nature of the game means every manager has a winning mentality, there is an extra dimension that Ferguson displayed so many times of still going for the victory when trailing with two minutes to go that drives success at United.
“That’s why there is a government health warning that comes with this job,” Moyes said. “There is an expectancy and that is to try and win.”
This is one of the many features of the Ferguson days that Moyes will not want to change but he also knows that he needs to do things his way if he is to become a credible and successful United manager.
“It might take me 18 months to two years to get things changed around,” he said.
“I don’t know how long Sir Alex thought it took him to get it the way that he wanted it. At a club like Manchester United, I will get the opportunity to do that. There might be other clubs where you wouldn’t.”
Taking the reins at a hugely successful club when you have not won a trophy in 11 years with your previous team is a tall order and taking over the office of a manager who won 38 trophies in 26 years makes it all the more daunting.
“Sitting in the chair for the first time felt odd. I did it myself with nobody looking. I thought I would have to see how it feels in case anybody thought I looked stupid,” Moyes said.
But Moyes takes comfort from the fact the club’s American owners are unlikely to rush into hitting the panic button if the trophies are not pouring in immediately.
“They have been fantastic in their calmness, their openness, their support, where they want to take the club,” he said. “They see the stability and continuity as really important.”
Moyes has already won a trophy for United in the shape of the Community Shield when they beat FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic 2-0 at Wembley last weekend, and is relishing the start of the real business of the league.
“I think the first game of the season is always important but sometimes it’s forgotten I have managed in the Premier League for 11 or 12 years so I am relatively experienced in those terms” he said.
“I am relatively confident because of the players I have got. I have got a group that did very well last year and I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue.” (Writing by Sonia Oxley in Manchester; Editing by John O’Brien)