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Time to shelve Ferguson's book

David Moyes has more to occupy him than his predecessor's autobiography as Man Utd seek three points against Stoke City.

Last Modified: 26 Oct 2013 10:56
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Turning a page: Moyes will have spent his time focusing on Stoke after the win over Real Sociedad [AP]

While the British media has gorged itself this week on the delicious contrast between Alex Ferguson's tales of success at Manchester United and the struggles of the new man David Moyes, it will have made little difference to United's preparations for the match against Stoke City.

The prevailing view seems to be that Moyes will have felt left out by the attention his predecessor’s latest autobiography was receiving, and that Ferguson's story was bad timing in that it heaped more pressure on the former Everton boss to turn things around at Old Trafford.

It’s perhaps a tempting image to have Moyes in his office clicking through each story and wondering why journalists don’t want to write about how great he is.

But let’s face it, he has more to occupy his head space than that.

The Scotsman oversaw a win over Real Sociedad in the Champions League in midweek – an event probably given a bit more prominence in his diary than "Alex Ferguson booklaunch – send Rooney to pick up signed copy".

United are eighth in the table and have given their home support a few poor performances and bad results.

Moyes does not need the media to tell him that this puts him under pressure, nor does Fergie’s book add to it. It’s just a book – we already knew that Ferguson was rather successful in his 27 years at United.

More Fergie time? Arsene Wenger (right) suspects Ferguson may not have finished with management [GALLO/GETTY]

Indeed, criticism of Moyes at this stage is an indirect insult to Ferguson.

The former Glasgow Rangers striker and Aberdeen manager was in charge at Old Trafford for nearly three decades. It is widely accepted that he moulded the ethos of the club and its most important players in his own image.

Close control

United became Ferguson and Ferguson became United. He came closer to total control than perhaps any manager in the history of club football.

So can someone else come in and pick up exactly where Ferguson left off? Can everything be exactly the same as it ever was? It’s that easy?

No. Not for Moyes, not for Jose Mourinho, not for anyone else who has ever been linked with the job.

Yes, United would probably be in the top three if Ferguson was still in charge. But he’s not. His departure from the job left a huge gap and Moyes has to fill it brick by brick. He might fail, but he’s not failing yet.

While that rebuilding job is being done, opposing managers and teams can see an opportunity to take points off United, and a few of them have done that this season.

Former United striker Mark Hughes is in charge of Stoke City as they visit Old Trafford on Saturday, and believes – probably correctly, for now – that the Mancunians have lost their old aura.

"That would be Mark's opinion and he's entitled to that," Moyes told his pre-match press conference.

"We'll wait and see how the game goes.

"There will be a lot of slip-ups by teams between now and the end of the season. Obviously we don't want to have any more if we can help it."

The return of Robin van Persie alongside an in-form Wayne Rooney will give a boost to fans at Old Trafford pining for the Ferguson era, and ease pressure on a defence that conceded a late equaliser to Southampton last weekend.

Gunners aim high

High above the depths of eighth position, Arsenal can extend their lead in the table if they beat Crystal Palace in the early kickoff in south London.

Before the game, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger continued the Ferguson theme by saying he suspected his former rival might come out of retirement.

"In six months we will know more about that. You cannot rule it completely out," Wenger was quoted as saying on Friday.

"It is difficult to take a drug for 30 years and suddenly get rid of it."

Any slip-up by Arsenal could allow Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool to hit the heady heights of first place again if they beat West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, which is enjoying a fruitful partnership between the ‘SAS’ combination of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Ferguson's shadow may still hang over Manchester United and the Premier League, but the challenge for Moyes and the other managers is where it always was – on the pitch, not on paper.

Paul Rhys is a sports correspondent and presenter writing for Al Jazeera from Paris. Follow him on @PaulRhys_Sport or go to paulrhys.com.

The views here do not necessarily represent the views of Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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