How David Moyes will follow a legend at Manchester United

As Sir Alex Ferguson's successor prepares for his first day in charge at Old Trafford, Tim Rich talks to three men who all replaced icons

This morning David Moyes drove along a single-track road, passed through the two sets of barriers that lead to the Carrington training ground and become the manager of Manchester United.

The training ground itself did not exist when, in the bleak November of 1986, Sir Alex Ferguson was paraded at Old Trafford. The following morning would be Rio Ferdinand's eighth birthday. The men in the brown-panelled home dressing-room have known no other voice. Ferguson has gone but his shadow remains.

Frank Clark was 49, a year younger than Moyes, when he inherited the ruins of Brian Clough's long regime. Nottingham Forest were where Clough had found them 18 years before, in the second tier of English football. Clark had been part of the side that had won Forest's first European Cup in 1979. His past would buy him some time with the fans but it would not help when dealing with Clough's players.

"I can't say it helped with the dressing-room, a footballer can be frighteningly quick to see through you if you don't know what you are doing," he said. "Brian was not well. He kept a very low profile and himself out of the papers, which helped a lot. But there was an air of depression around the City Ground and we needed to clear it quickly."

It lingered. Nottingham Forest won three of their first dozen matches that season and lay 20th by the end of October. That they were promoted was perhaps down to the fact that the team were becoming recognisably Clark's own.

"Roy Keane was determined to go and Nigel Clough could not stay because of the internal politics, but I signed six players and there was Stuart Pearce. He was the leader of that dressing-room, a tough, commanding presence, and he could have made trouble for me. In fact, he supported everything I did.

"I suppose Ferguson was the last dictator, the kind we will not see again, but in his later years Alex became a very good delegator," added Clark. "David Moyes has something that a lot of very good managers possess, which is an unshakeable belief in themselves – even when they are wrong."

Wilf McGuinness believed in himself absolutely when he was asked to succeed Sir Matt Busby at Manchester United. The Cliff, the club's then training ground, had been his home for all his adult life, as a player and then as a coach. Busby was eight years into his term as manager when McGuinness signed schoolboy forms at 15. He was now 31, which in retrospect seems astonishingly young.

The players were his friends and he had Busby's blessing. "Manchester United would back me, they were that sort of club. Nobody at Old Trafford was a non-trier," he recalled. "I still had the old back-room staff who were United loyal. There was nothing to be afraid of. Maybe it would have been better had I been a complete stranger to them."

What McGuinness saw was plenty of ageing, talented footballers who played golf with Busby, who still had an office at Old Trafford. "There were too many grey areas between us," said McGuinness. "I was never sure what was his responsibility and what was mine but they were not the reasons I failed.

"The main reason was a lack of transfers. I signed one player, Ian Ure. I wanted to bring in Mick Mills from Ipswich and Malcolm Macdonald but I was told that the fees were too big."

Busby ruled for 24 years; McGuinness was given 18 months. George Best was at his glittering peak but the two other members of the trinity, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, were in decline and dropping them hurt. On Boxing Day 1970, McGuinness was fired and Busby returned to his dressing-room.

"David Moyes will find this is a special club," McGuinness added. "The lesson of Manchester United is the longer you manage, the easier it becomes."

As Terry Neill remarked, he grew up in Belfast, "so I knew what a fight was, even if it was likely to end in tears". Like McGuinness, he was very young – 32 – when he succeeded Bill Nicholson, who had run Tottenham for 16 years.

It was not an easy inheritance. Neill had played for Arsenal, Tottenham were in freefall and Nicholson had backed Danny Blanchflower or John Giles for the succession. "But I was young and I wanted to test myself," said Neill. "But my playing career with Arsenal was a factor. I got hate mail and abusive phone calls.

"When I was appointed, Bill was brilliant. After we had done the media duties we spent half an hour discussing the playing staff. I knew I was not his choice but he treated me with the greatest of grace.

"My first impressions were looking around the training ground, they had so many excellent staff that I couldn't believe they were in this position. Something at Tottenham was fundamentally wrong. Some, like Jimmy Neighbour, needed an arm around the shoulder. He had no self-belief. I told him, 'You can be my Garrincha'.

"The squad was getting on and there was some really promising talent that needed to come through, but I don't take any credit for giving Glenn Hoddle his first-team debut," Neill admitted. "You just needed a grain of common sense."

The season finished with Tottenham needing to beat Leeds, who were preparing for the 1975 European Cup final, to survive. Spurs won 4-2 and the same fans that had jeered his arrival called for Neill to take to the pitch. Instead of milking the applause, Neill headed for Heathrow instead. "The season had shattered me. I needed a break. David Moyes comes to the job thoroughly prepared and he is 50, not 32."

None of those who succeeded a football dictator lasted long – Clark's three and a half years was the longest tenure and both Manchester United and Tottenham were relegated before the ghosts of the old masters had properly cleared. Moyes might imagine his future differently as he drives through the gates.

Moyes makes three signings in one day

New United coach's profiles

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering