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

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?