The last few years have been rife with speculation as to when Sir Alex Ferguson would end his glorious reign as manager of Manchester United, and at long last the Scot has announced that this will be his final season in charge at Old Trafford.
He leaves after 26 years at the helm with some handy figures: 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions League triumphs. It will be a very, very long time before anyone comes close to matching that record – if ever.
Thus, it will be a brave man indeed who steps in to fill an almost un-fillable void, and the early mail is that David Moyes will be that man.
The Scotsman arrived at Everton in 2002 as a relative unknown, but since taking a batch of relegation battlers to Champions League qualification in 2004-05 he has established himself as one of the English game’s elite managers.
A quick look at the figures shows that in the last six seasons the Toffees have not finished lower than eighth in the Premier League, in a stretch that includes three consecutive stints in the UEFA Cup/Europa League and an FA Cup final appearance.
On the surface that might not seem so impressive, but when you consider the Merseyside club’s financial constraints compared to the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and even Aston Villa – most of whom have come under foreign ownership in recent years – it’s remarkable that Everton have remained so consistently competitive.
That goes some way to explaining how, in an era where gaffers come and go like morning frosts, the former Preston North End boss has contrived to hold his post at Goodison Park for some 11 years. Among his contemporaries, only Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger have carved out longer stints in the Premier League.
But perhaps the most telling among his accolades is that Moyes has been named Manager of the Year by the League Managers Association three times (in 2003, 2005 and 2009). It is a record tally that he shares with none other than the man he is tipped to replace, and a sign of a man who is universally respected among his peers.
Above all, the timing is right. With an ageing squad in need of refreshment and Sir Alex approaching his 72nd birthday, it is time someone else came in and undertook the arduous task of assembling the next generation of Red Devils.
Meanwhile, with Everton being left behind in the tussle to break into the top four over the last few years, Moyes may feel he has achieved all he can under an administration that lacks the funds – or ambition – to compete with the free-spending London and Manchester clubs.
Either way it will be a brave new world at Old Trafford next season, and the old knight will be missed no matter what transpires. However, if Moyes does indeed get the gig, United fans should take heart from this thought: perhaps Marouane Fellaini will be scoring for you, rather than against you, from now on.