David Moyes knows there is no 'Fergie time' if he struggles at Manchester United

Sir Alex was allowed to begin with a rocky three years, but the new boss must start winning fast

He may have signed a six-year contract to manage Manchester United but David Moyes has few illusions that the club will show him the kind of patience they had with Sir Alex Ferguson if things go wrong.

The theme of his presentation as United's first new manager since 1986 was continuity; underlined by the fact he was Ferguson's emphatic choice. However, should Moyes stumble, as Ferguson stumbled through his first three seasons, he is unlikely to receive the same backing.

"Probably not," said Moyes in the wake of an accomplished first press conference in the room at Old Trafford where Ferguson held court before Champions League games.

"In this day and age you would not get that. I don't think you can ever ask for time now. All you can ask is to be judged on how it goes. Time is something managers do not get now and it is a tough start." Three of United's first five games pitch them against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

"I have met the Glazers – Joel and Avi – both here and in New York and they have given me a lot of confidence to get on with the job," said Moyes, who at Preston and Everton enjoyed a deeply personal relationship with his chairmen.

"Their message was to take your time and do things the way you want to do it. There are no great expectations on how I do the job. They are not owners who interfere."

The Glazers appear to have given Ferguson free rein to anoint his successor. Manchester United's former chief executive, David Gill, has a stock answer to questions on the succession: that Ferguson would "play a part" in choosing his replacement. However, few anticipated the role would be a one-man show.

Only one of English football's great managers – Sir Matt Busby – has chosen his successor, and Wilf McGuinness's tortured 18 months at Old Trafford is not an inspiring template. However, the call, when it came, induced feelings of panic in Moyes, principally over the way he was dressed.

"It was the Thursday before we played Liverpool (2 May) and I was with my wife in Altrincham. I had turned 50 the week before and she had bought me a watch as a present but I needed to get a link taken out.

"The phone rang and it was Sir Alex. I had no idea why he would want to phone me. He said: 'Could you drop over to the house for some lunch?'

"I told my wife that he must want me to take one of his players on loan or that he wanted to buy one of my players. I had my jeans and a T-shirt on and I felt I had to go home and get changed. I would never ever go to a meeting with Sir Alex wearing jeans."

Altrincham is a few miles from Ferguson's house in Wilmslow but it is a good hour's drive from Moyes's home near Preston. Pamela Moyes was left in a nearby shopping centre while Moyes went home in search of a suit.

"I had no inkling," he said. "He took me up the stairs, made me a cup of tea and spoke the words I will never forget. They were: 'I am retiring and you are the next manager of Manchester United'.

"I went back to pick her up and Pamela must have wondered where the hell I had been. I told her: 'I am the next Manchester United manager'. I cannot repeat what she said back."

Moyes is aware of the theory that to succeed Ferguson is to be handed a beautiful, inlaid cup of poison. Manchester United have not been serious contenders in Europe for two seasons now. The iconic presence of Jose Mourinho has returned to Stamford Bridge. Manchester City will keep spending until they break through once more. United may be champions but it means the only way is down.

"I have heard so many people say that you don't want to follow Sir Alex," said Moyes. "A lot of good managers have said that you don't want to take on that job. But he has left me a really good team and right now I feel fortunate."