“Football, Bloody Hell.”
Those were the immediate thoughts of the soon-to-be knighted Alex Ferguson in the aftermath of Manchester United’s iconic 2-1 victory against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final at Camp Nou.
Goals in the dying minutes, first from Teddy Sheringham and then sensationally from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, gave the club a second European Cup triumph.
It was Ferguson’s first European title at the Old Trafford club – but his thirst would prove to be unquenchable.
He would go on to manage arguably the biggest club in the world for 14 more seasons, collecting 38 trophies in all before announcing his retirement this morning.
United are now left with a gaping hole in their managerial hot seat – a hole that might never disappear completely.
The white-hot favourite to succeed Ferguson is David Moyes who, at 1/20 on with some bookmakers, is expected to be announced as the 71-year-old’s successor in a matter of hours.
But is Moyes really the best candidate for the job?
Ferguson’s fellow Glaswegian has managed current side Everton for 11 years on a restricted budget – in fact his rule at the Merseyside club is the third-longest in the Premier League as it stands.
Moyes has long enjoyed a pleasant relationship with Ferguson, and has often accepted advice on his career from the outgoing United boss.
Additionally, United are thought to be keen to employ a manager who bears the same managerial traits as their beloved retiree.
This would place Moyes in a strong position due to his loyalty and willingness to involve young players in first team matches – indeed it was Moyes who gave 16-year-old Wayne Rooney his Premier League debut in 2002.
Further strings to Moyes’ bow include his knowledge of the Premier League and his man-management skills, but several serious blotches on the 50-year-old’s CV mean that he will be a massive gamble to a club of United’s pedigree.
With just a handful of European games (most of those in the Europa League) as manager of Everton, Moyes has a minute amount of experience in a footballing environment – as proved by the successes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – that is rapidly evolving.
His Champions League experience stops short of the competition proper, with a disappointing 4-2 aggregate defeat to Villarreal in the third qualifying round in 2005 providing further reinforcement to those who believe he is under-qualified for the United job.
Then there is the fact that Moyes has never won a trophy in his managerial career.
Arguably, this is hardly surprising given the finite resources he has at Everton, but that record would normally be unacceptable for a club of United’s history, especially given the rich success that Ferguson has enjoyed.
Signing Moyes might also dissuade big-name players from joining the club in the future too.
Past signings have spoken of their admiration for Ferguson, the club and the supporters, but would reported United targets such as James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski actually be convinced enough by Moyes as a manager to sign?
Transfer pulling-power aside, Moyes has never had a massive transfer budget at his disposal and should he get the United job it will be a test of his nous as a manager to make astute signings.
A warning has already been cast by his current arch-rivals Liverpool, who delved deeply into their pockets at then manager Kenny Dalglish’s behest to acquire the services of Andy Carroll for £35m, Stewart Downing for £20m and Jordan Henderson for £16m – all of whom have failed to light up Anfield since their arrival, with Carroll even joining West Ham on loan this season.
Such ill judgements were indicative of a man who had never had as much money to spend before – but will Moyes, when faced with the same scenario, prove just as foolhardy in the transfer market?
His transfer history at Everton suggests otherwise, having bought well over his decade at the club to secure the signatures of players such as Marouane Fellaini, Mikel Arteta, Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines.
Despite being the overwhelming favourite for the United hot seat, Moyes has competition from Jose Mourinho and Jürgen Klopp.
Mourinho, just days before Ferguson’s announcement to retire, seemed destined to leave Real Madrid for Chelsea.
That does appear to be where the flamboyant Portuguese will end up, especially a lack of endurance at former clubs suggests his short-term stints are at odds with United’s wish for a long-term manager.
Then there is Borussia Dortmund’s Klopp, an exciting young German manager who has wrestled with the might of Bayern Munich in his home country to produce successive Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final this season.
At 45, Klopp has exhibited the tactical awareness and innovation needed to dismantle sides such as Real Madrid, even destroying Bayern 5-2 in the German DFB-Pokal Cup final last season.
Yet Klopp, who is at the forefront of the German revolution in the Champions League, is contracted to Dortmund for another season and has little experience of the English game.
United fans would be impressed by his tendency to create sides with attacking flair and defensive diligence, but Klopp is unlikely to be considered with Moyes so close to being chosen as Ferguson’s successor.
So the 1/20 price appears to have Moyes’ name all but announced as the next United boss, but will his lack of experience in European competition and a trophy less cabinet eventually prove costly?
Or will the skills displayed during his time at Everton evolve into those fit for the helm at Old Trafford?
Manchester United already seem to know the answers to those questions.