By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
What kind of manager can Manchester United expect when David Moyes is anointed to the Old Trafford throne?
Caricature paints him as pragmatic, work-aholic, enthusiastic, loyal and demanding, a worker of miracles season after season at Everton.
In his own words, Moyes was overlooked for the post of Ferguson’s No.2 in 1998 because the Govan godfather regarded the then Preston manager as "a little too intense".
The 50-year-old has come a long way from the ambitious ladder climber who began taking coaching courses at the age of 22 to the cherry-picked successor of the most successful manager in British football.
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Behind the gimlet blue eyes and proud Glaswegian jaw lies one of the most fertile minds in football.
An early disciple of long ball specialist and unorthodox man-manager John Beck, Moyes is also a fervent advocate of the scientific approach to management.
At Everton, he urges his fitness staff to go on courses across Europe to absorb the latest knowledge and information on player preparation and recovery. Football data is key to his matchday preparation, with a mini-team of three analysts employed to provide detailed reports on the performances of his own players and the opposition.
This is no dinosaur sending his team out to wear down the opposition and nick a goal on the counter-attack or through a set piece.
Moyes’ supporters point to him transforming Everton from perennial mid-table strugglers to top-six regulars on a shoestring budget, with three League Managers’ Association manager-of-the-year awards proof of the esteem in which he is held by his peers.
Critics use his lack of Champions League pedigree against him, as well as a trophy count during 11 years at Goodison Park that still stands at an unforgiving zero.
Moreover, Moyes’ teams have never been known for playing an expansive brand of football. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy came away from Spurs’ 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park in March 2012 telling friends that Moyes would not be a future manager of his club. “We are never going to play like Everton,” he said. Levy was true to his word. Moyes was, perhaps surprisingly, never even considered by the London club to replace Harry Redknapp last summer.
Yet Moyes knows how to win friends and influence people. “He has an aura about him,” one long-standing former colleague, who wished to remain anonymous, told Goal.com. “Players listen to him and believe in what he is telling them. They will run through a brick wall for him. He is good to his staff, honest and generous. Without exception, they all respect him.”
Moyes is cast from the same mould as Ferguson. They share similar working-class Glasgow backgrounds, fierce work ethics and their management styles are broadly similar.
“David has a tough, hold-no-prisoners’ approach,” the ex-colleague added. “It is his way or the highway, as players like Royston Drenthe have found out.
“He is not particularly flexible and is something of a control freak. He is a manager in the traditional sense. He not only coaches the players, selects the team and formulates the tactics but controls every area of the club – the academy, the scouting, the medical and the sports science departments. He never stops working."
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At United, Moyes will not have the same level of control as he has developed during a decade of steering Everton from the bottom half of the table to the top. Britain’s biggest club has too many tentacles. He will have to learn to delegate, as Ferguson has done so successfully down the years.
“David is going to have to change his approach radically,” the source explained. “Maybe not so much his man-management style. At Man United you can probably get away with an authoritarian style, as he will be following Ferguson. You can’t walk into Chelsea and do it.
“But he won’t be able to run all areas of the club at United. The playing style is also an issue. At Everton and Preston, he has not overseen an expansive style of play.”
Like his fellow Scot, Moyes has also demonstrated a capacity for longevity and consistency. By nearly all measures, his track record at Preston and Everton is impressive.
An absence of silverware at Goodison should not be confused with a lack of success. Winning the FA Cup in 2009, when Everton lost to Chelsea in the final, would have enhanced his CV, but would it have been any more of an achievement than steering the Merseysiders to a top-four league finish, as he did in 2004-05 after being forced to sell Wayne Rooney to United?
Like Ferguson, Moyes keeps the media at arm’s length. Control is the buzz-word. He also knows how to keep a secret.
A cloak of confidentiality has surrounded United’s plans for him to succeed his friend and ally over the past few weeks. Even senior Everton staff have been kept in the dark about their manager’s future.
Moyes had an end-of-season dinner with the Merseyside press pack last week, when each reporter was given a gift of a 10-year-old bottle of single malt as a token of appreciation for a solid working relationship over the course of the campaign. “I honestly don’t have a clue what I will be doing at the end of the season,” privately flat-batted Moyes in response to off-record questions about his future.
You can imagine Ferguson quietly nodding his approval. He will stay on to mentor the man he deemed not ready to work with 15 years ago, but who he now considers the stand-out candidate to manage one of European football’s grandest institutions.
Moyes has served his apprenticeship. His time has come.