As Sir Alex Ferguson took to the Old Trafford turf last May to deliver his farewell speech, not many would have guessed that he may have been about to deliver his final act of genius as Manchester United manager.
After a few minutes of soaking up some rapturous applause, thanking players and staff and wishing all the best to the ill Darren Fletcher and fellow retiree Paul Scholes, Ferguson uttered his final request to his adoring faithful: ‘Your job now is to stand by our new manager’.
The new manager he was referring to was of course, David Moyes and by encouraging the Old Trafford crowd to back their new leader to the hilt Ferguson may just have bought him some valuable time.
For at this stage of the season, if Moyes had been employed by the ruthless owners of either Chelsea or Manchester City, one would have to conclude that he would almost certainly have received his P45 by now.
While most Manchester United supporters did not expect Moyes to slip into Fergie’s throne without any discomfort, most would not have expected to be languishing in 7th position in the Premier League table in January, five points adrift of the fourth Champion’s League spot.
Yet after last week’s last-gasp F.A. Cup defeat to Swansea and the midweek humbling by Sunderland in the Capital One Cup, fans were still showing their support for the manager. The question now is, exactly how far will the patience of the Manchester United faithful stretch?
How many more defeats will it take before they are calling for Moyes’ head? How many more weeks of mid-table obscurity will they be able to handle before pushing for his exit?
If Moyes can manage to lead a springtime charge up the table and clinch Champion’s League qualification then he should be able to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to a second season at the Old Trafford.
Another saving grace would be a decent run in this season’s edition of Europe’s premier competition. With Olympiakos as opponents in February’s round of 16, United will fancy their chances of at least making the quarter-finals and, with a bit of luck, go even further.
All this would certainly have to be seen as a decent return for the manager’s first season in charge. However, with last week’s conquerors Swansea returning to Old Trafford in the league this Sunday and a trip to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea looming the following week, Moyes may find himself with his back firmly up against the wall, and with Sir Alex Ferguson to thank for ensuring he’s made it this far.