Perhaps the longest-running pub debate in sport is about to come to an end, with Everton manager David Moyes set to replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has long been linked with the role but looks certain to be on his way to Chelsea, while Borussia Dortmund Jurgen Klopp has his admirers.
But with United thought to be looking for a long-term replacement to maintain the steady course rather than make a splash, Moyes move from Goodison Park could be confirmed as early as tomorrow.
Sven-Goran Eriksson was set to fill Ferguson’s shoes in 2002 and the list of names that have been associated with the role, from Fabio Capello, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane, Steve McClaren and Mark Hughes, only serves to underline Ferguson’s longevity.
But, having come close to joining United as an assistant manager during his Preston days in 1999 before going on to establish Everton as a force in the top half of the Premier League, Moyes’ link has been the most enduring.
As none of the potential successors can match Ferguson’s record — who can? — it is more than easy to pick holes in them, yet the Everton man has fewer than most.
At 50, and after 11 years at Goodison Park, Ferguson’s fellow Glaswegian would not be moving to Old Trafford to tick off another major football destination for a couple of years as Mourinho maybe would.
All being well, Moyes would want another lengthy stay at a club where he could move up a level, build and develop.
In recent years his skin has grown thicker when it comes to dealing with big egos and he believes he can deal with the world’s biggest players and although he can come across clipped in tv interviews, he is comfortable with the media.
This will be with eighth season in nine that Everton finish in the top half and although none other than Ferguson himself branded the Blues “direct” at the start of the season, Everton have played with real swagger in recent years.
Much like Ferguson, Moyes leaves nothing to chance in terms of preparation and does not suffer from a lack of determination or work ethic.
Not only has Moyes never won a trophy, or a game at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or Arsenal, big occasions have passed him by and his experience of the Champions League is limited to be knocked out by Villarreal over a two-legged qualifier in 2005.
Yet it appears that the positives may outweigh and the timing of all this is just as significant for Moyes and Everton as it is for United.
After 11 years of competing against clubs with far bigger budgets, the Scot could be forgiven for feeling it could only go wrong for him at Everton now.
He has been happily running down his contract while increasing his profile with more and more television appearances and interviews with foreign newspapers.
The goalless draw at Liverpool realistically means they will finish in the sixth place they currently occupy. Were Everton still pushing for the top four, Moyes would not want news of his move to leak out now.
For a true indication of his worth, you only need look at the prospect of Everton’s future without him.
Mourinho, who appears destined for a return to Stamford Bridge, undoubtedly has the track record and put Ferguson in his place by winning the Champions League with Porto before moving to Chelsea and beating United to successive titles.
Partly for political reasons, Ferguson has always been happy to indulge the Portuguese’s excesses, although it was always felt that he may be a little too brash and political for United’s hierarchy.
While Ferguson has never uttered a negative word about the Glazers in public, much like Moyes with Bill Kenwright, it is hard to imagine Mourinho doing the same if everything did not go his way.
He would be determined to see more players of the profile of Robin van Persie arriving at Old Trafford, rather than investing in youth as United have done so much in recent years.
It should also be said that Mourinho would be far from intimidated at seeing Ferguson sitting behind him in the directors’ box, has the greater pulling power when it comes to attracting the world’s best players and it is hard to see him failing on the field but Moyes looks to be at the front of the queue.
He offers United much more than just a familiar accent.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved