One year on: Moyes mistake should never detract from Ferguson's Manchester United legacy

The sacked Scot flopped at Old Trafford, despite being hand-picked by his predecessor, but the 72-year-old must not be blamed for the failings of the ex-Everton coach
By Harry Sherlock 
Just 12 months ago, the sports news media went into overdrive. Sir Alex Ferguson, as had been reported by many outlets the day before, had announced his retirement. A legend of the game was stepping down, having secured another Premier League title for his beloved Manchester United

But Ferguson was far from finished. Having accepted a position on the board of directors, the Scot was directly consulted about the identity of his successor. He recommended David Moyes, and even invited the then-Everton manager to his home to inform him of his decision.

Fast forward a year and Moyes no longer has an office at Carrington. Instead, his seat is being occupied by interim manager Ryan Giggs, appointed after a dismal reign was brought to an end.

In a season of unwanted records, United wilted without Ferguson. Despite Moyes spending over £60 million on Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini, United slipped from champions to seventh, while 11 home defeats – not counting the 1-0 loss to Sunderland under Giggs – coupled with 42 goals conceded and the worst Premier League points tally of United's history suggests Ferguson was misguided in naming Moyes his successor.

As such, many United fans chose to direct their ire at their former manager. They believe better coaches were available. Jose Mourinho could have been lured from Real Madrid had United timed their approach right, while Jurgen Klopp was pulling up trees at Borussia Dortmund. Instead, they were given a manager who had not won a single trophy on Merseyside.

They felt Ferguson was responsible, having foisted the job on Moyes without any semblance of due diligence. Moyes was the man guiding the club to within a hair's breadth of the bottom half, yet it was Ferguson who chose to appoint him. That, by many supporters' logic, meant he was in the wrong.

But at the time, many felt Moyes had earned his stripes at Everton and could handle such "high office". That he proved incapable is not down to Ferguson. Despite an ageing playing staff, Ferguson left him a title-winning squad. The Glazers also provided him with the money needed to pursue the marquee signings that were so desperately needed.

That the summer became a farce, again, is not down to Ferguson. Chief executive David Gill, the legendary Scot's key ally, left at the same time, and his absence was just as keenly felt.

Bids for Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas, Fabio Coentrao, Daniele De Rossi and Leighton Baines all failed. So did Ed Woodward's ludicrous charm offensive to lure Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. Moyes eventually signed Fellaini, a player highly-rated by many United fans during his time at Everton. He has flopped at United – staggeringly, his first assist in a red shirt came in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Hull City – but he was admired by Ferguson for a time, too.

Under Ferguson's tutelage, this United squad – minus Mata, Fellaini and Januzaj – amassed 89 points last season, lost just five times and beat City to the title by 11 points. He was entitled to think they would be able to do it again. If Moyes had invested the war chest handed to him correctly, they could have done.

Yet Ferguson appears to have been frozen out of the search for Moyes' successor. Louis van Gaal has agreed a deal to take over and will be announced as the new United manager next week, despite the old Scot telling a gala dinner in Manchester last month that Giggs was the right man to lead the club.

Yet despite overlooking his advice this time around, United must keep Ferguson on board. Van Gaal is an experienced if unpredictable coach and will have his own views on the squad. He is keen to spend upwards of £100 million and is believed to have targeted a number of star names, including Edinson Cavani and Marco Reus.

28/1 Southampton are 28/1 with Bet365 to beat Man Utd 3-0 on Sunday
But the Dutchman could do worse than ask Ferguson for advice. The Scot wrought the best out of this squad. Antonio Valencia, often used as a right-back by Moyes, was a terrifyingly direct winger under Ferguson. This season he has registered just two assists in the Premier League. He had seven last season.

Van Persie, too, was a title-winning striker under Ferguson, his signing a masterstroke that inspired United's players to be better. Before he signed, Ferguson told him he would not be retiring. When he did, the ex-Arsenal star's world threatened to come crashing down. 

He will be happier under Van Gaal, but his plight is true of many United players; they simply did not see Ferguson's retirement coming. Few adjusted properly, despite their public statements of support for Moyes.

That, again, is hardly Ferguson's fault. He is in his 70s and managers do not go on forever. With 1500 games under his belt, many should have had an inkling of his intentions. That he kept it a secret was the major mistake. The United squad found out during a staff and players golf day. It was not ideal. But to blame Ferguson for Moyes' shortcomings is shortsighted.

That Moyes chose to abandon Ferguson's style of free-flowing, attacking football and replace it with a pragmatic, negative approach is not the fault of the senior Scot. That he lost his job, despite Ferguson giving the nod of approval to the swinging of the axe, is not down to his predecessor either. It is down to Moyes himself.

As the anniversary of Ferguson's departure comes and goes, he deserves to be remembered for 38 trophies won, the last-gasp comebacks, the fantastic goals. And he also deserves to stay on in the corridors of power.

He has an encyclopaedic football brain and cares deeply about United. There are few managers as knowledgeable as Ferguson and he can be invaluable if used correctly. Van Gaal is a wily coach and has been around the block but all good managers recognise a need to learn and to improve. Ferguson can help him do just that.

It could be a managerial dream team. And, were it to pay off, it would go some way to erasing the memory of Ferguson's Moyes mistake.