In Depth

How Alex Ferguson haunts new Man Utd boss David Moyes

His constant presence in the directors box is not making things easy for struggling successor

WITH David Moyes under increasing pressure as Manchester United's season goes from bad to worse, some commentators are pointing the finger not at the former Everton boss, but the man he replaced.

 Alex Ferguson, who ran Old Trafford for 27 years, has opted not to disappear as he suggested he would, but has instead become a fixture in the director’s box, gazing down on the travails of his successor, reminding everyone that it didn't used to be like this. His presence at games has even been likened to that of Banquo's ghost at the feast in Shakespeare's Macbeth, although in this case he is visible to everyone. Most recently Fergie was in attendance at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on Tuesday night to watch as United lost in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final. "Why is Ferguson now turning up for United away games as well as those at Old Trafford?" wonders Sam Wallace in The Independent. "If he cannot see that his presence is diminishing David Moyes as the new man wrestles with a nightmarish run of results and form, then is it about time that someone told him?" It is perplexing that a man like Ferguson, who understands the importance of public perception, should choose to sit in such public judgement on his successor. "The results have been bad enough for Moyes without him looking like the apprentice, trapped in an eternal, hellish assessment by the 72-year-old behind him," says Wallace. Ferguson "was supposed to have plans for an enjoyable retirement, largely centred around wine, horses and travel," recalls Mark Ogden in the Daily Telegraph. Instead "he has chosen pain and misery ahead of pleasure by becoming a big black cloud forever hovering over David Moyes." Comparing him to a member of the old Soviet Politbureau looking down on Red Square, Ogden notes that he has yet to let the mask of neutrality slip, but that could change. "The first time he offers a glimmer of annoyance or frustration, it will carry one hundred times more weight than a shrug of the shoulders from Joel, Bryan or Avram Glazer." And it is not just current actions that are destabilising Moyes. Daniel Harris in The Guardian says that the squad Ferguson had assembled on the meagre resources afforded him by the Glazers was "operable by him alone... via an enveloping presence of love, fury and wisdom". Now Ferguson is gone, the squad is no more than the sum of its parts. And to make matters worse, Ferguson's parting shot was to make public his differences with Wayne Rooney and destabilise the squad yet further. "Though the squad contains plenty of good players playing inexcusably badly, very few are at their peak, there is no discernible midfield, and little in the way of star quality," says Harris.

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