United legend says Moyes will prosper at Old Trafford


We knew Sir Alex Ferguson's departure would come eventually, but that doesn't mean we were fully prepared for it.

The current United team will have been shocked to discover Sir Alex's plans; I certainly was. I spoke to Ferguson a couple of days before the story broke, and even at that stage he kept his poker face on and gave absolutely no clue he was about to call it a day.

The greatest manager of them all could not go on forever, but he has left Manchester United Football Club in a different universe compared with where he found them. He also bowed out on a high, with 13 league titles, bucket loads of FA Cups and League Cups and two Champions League trophies under his belt. What a record!

I must say I am pleased with the appointment of David Moyes as his replacement. My old teammate Phil Neville, who is rumoured to be on his way to Manchester United in some capacity, cannot speak highly enough of his former boss at Everton.

And why wouldn't he? We’re talking about a guy who’s held down a Premier League job for 11 years and consistently delivered impressive results, often exceeding expectation. Not too many managers have that on their CV.

Those I've spoken to who have worked under Moyes talk about an extremely thorough manager in terms of his approach. Here is a master tactician who leaves nothing to chance. And for that reason alone, I expect the transition from the Sir Alex Ferguson era should be a smooth one.

While many have spoken about Moyes being a manager in the same mould as Ferguson, the 50-year-old Scot will be keen to prove he’s not a marionette for the old regime.

The changes have already begun, with the old coaching team leaving Old Trafford. Both Mike Phelan and Eric Steele have now departed, despite the former being held in high regard by the players. First team coach Rene Meulensteen is still at the club, but he also looks set to leave and has been linked to several vacant manager jobs, with Wigan in the running.

I think we’ll see a different approach from United’s new manager when it comes to giving the youth a chance. Moyes has already said he’d like to blood the young talent, and he should know what he’s talking about, as he oversaw the development of many great a talent in his years as Everton manager. But for me, he'll also have to make some signings this summer.

When United lost the title to Manchester City a year ago, it didn’t really come as a surprise. The manner of it was dramatic and certainly something for the history books, but City were the best side that term and they had better strength and depth. But significantly, United recovered. And the key difference was the strengthening of the squad, notably in the shape of Robin van Persie.

The fact Moyes been brought in on a six year contract proves both parties’ intentions. I'm confident he won’t be sacked even if doesn’t win the league at his first attempt – but I just can’t see any reasons for him not to succeed.  There are massive expectations at the club, and Sir Alex didn’t finish lower than third in any season after 1991/1992. Manchester United don’t collect bronze medals these days.

During my time at Old Trafford the club always strengthened when they were already at their strongest, and a club like United will be surrounded by constant speculation as to players coming and going. As such, plenty of names have been mentioned. The midfield has been identified as an area in need of beefing up, despite Michael Carrick enjoying one of his best seasons for United.

Paul Scholes has retired - this time for good, I can assure you - and it’s obviously hard to replace a player like him. Cecs Fabregas has been touted as a potential replacement and I can understand why. The Barca player is a box-to-box midfielder and, just like Scholes, is someone you can be certain will rarely lose the ball. Whether he will be lured back to England I am not so sure, but he is certainly the type of player United could do with.

But people tend to forget that even at a club like Manchester United, money is an issue. When Wesley Sneijder’s transfer finally got called off a couple of seasons back, it was because of the Dutchman’s wage demands - United will not pay over the odds for anyone.

From what I've read elsewhere, much has been made of Moyes' lack of Champions League experience. But how many Premier League managers can boast extensive experience in the competition? Off the top of my head, I can think of just three: Mourinho, Wenger and Pelligrini. United have a team of players with Champions League experience and as far as I'm concerned it's just the press making this into a problem.

Nowadays, the principals of playing in the Champions League are the same as playing in the domestic league. You’re never going out to entertain in away games. You perhaps play cynically as you look for a result, and it seems to me that Moyes has mastered that already at Everton - he's all set to take the Champions League by storm and odds of 8.00 on United lifting two trophies next term are not to be sniffed at. 

Next season promises to be very interesting and, it's a cliché, but everything points towards a wide open season. Several clubs are willing to splash the cash in the coming weeks – even Arsenal claim to have money to spend.

If United went into the season with Ferguson as manager, I don’t think I'd even consider another club as possible winners of the 2013/14 Premier League. But even taking the “new manager factor" into consideration, I can’t ignore the fact United won the league by an 11-point margin. It may be a little closer next time, but I feel confident United will be crowned again.

If you agree with me then you can back them to pick up another title at 3.00.

Former Manchester United and Norway defender Ronny Johnsen writes exclusively for Bet.Unibet.com as part of his role as a Unibet ambassador.