Soccer: Wembley rite of passage

By Chris Bascombe

Leading his team to victory in the Community Shield will help launch the David Moyes era at Old Trafford.

Leading Manchester United at Wembley will be the latest in the series of rites of passage David Moyes has had to undergo since replacing Sir Alex Ferguson.

Moyes heads into his first significant fixture in his new role tonight (NZT) having earned commendation for reaching the destination of United manager but awaiting that moment when he can make himself comfortable in the dugout and declare to the world he has truly arrived. That he belongs there.

Regardless of how low a priority a Community Shield victory over Wigan Athletic tonight is when a season is reviewed, the chance to organise the first lap of honour with silverware on parade is an ideal opportunity to prove the habits of his predecessor will continue.

There must already have been numerous moments since his appointment when Moyes has begun to comprehend the magnitude of his new job title. It may have been driving past the gathered media throng into Carrington for the first time, donning the United training kit and standing in front of the collective of internationals with their Premier League titles. Maybe it was when he was handed the club blazer and walked into his introductory press conference at Old Trafford with a passing glance at the legendary figures such as Best, Law and Charlton decorating the walls, holding those European Cups.

His club's pre-season tour would have provided another reminder of the global hysteria wherever United pitch up and the responsibility Moyes must now absorb.

One suspects these examples serve only to inform Moyes he can only touch the hem of greatness during his acclimatisation period. He is in an unenviable position where he must win a league title or Champions League before he can even be perceived as a peer of some of those who are now part of his coaching staff. Goodwill quickly turns to suspicion for any recent appointment, so winning a trophy would be a safe, reassuring introduction.

Indeed, it is the kind of classic no-win encounter Moyes needs to adjust to. United will have over 40,000 more spectators than Wigan at Wembley, a record number for a single club since the stadium was rebuilt.

United fans do not travel to such arenas for a good day out or to earn pats on the back for getting there, only to win. Victory over Wigan is not just compulsory, should it happen as expected, it will be swiftly brushed aside as of little consequence. A defeat and poor performance, however, will ensure an altogether different tone in the build-up to the title defence. Moyes is hoping to tread the path between maintaining continuity and imposing his own personality on the side; blending the comfort of familiarity with a new style of leadership. That is not easy when nobody was in the market for any change before Ferguson's retirement.

Naturally, he must lean on the lieutenants, with Phil Neville still by his side and player-coach Ryan Giggs offering a reassuring voice to quell any fears the Scot will struggle to deal with weighty expectations.

"I'm excited to be learning and working with a new manager after working with the old one for so long, and so far things have worked really well," said Giggs. "David is really hands on. He's a manager that coaches and likes to be involved. He's a real details man.

"He likes to know everything about a player and I think that's what you need to be a Manchester United manager. It's all in the details. He has joined the champions and his aim is to make us a little bit better.

"There is an extra determination to do well under the new boss. When a new manager comes, I think everyone wants to impress, but the challenge is always there at United - whether you're attempting to defend the league or win it back."

Moyes could excuse lacklustre results on a pre-season tour which was a brand-building exercise. But tonight there's little margin for error. Moyes' only football trophy so far is the third-tier title he won with Preston in 2000 before 11 impressive but trophyless years with Everton.

"I will be trying to make this the first trophy of many," Moyes said. "But, if we win, it's really something that will have been earned by Sir Alex. It's because of his good work in the Premier League last season that we're in the Community Shield. I'll do my best to finish off the job but it's Sir Alex who will deserve a lot of the credit if we're successful at Wembley."

Moyes has already said it's "impossible" to try to match the trophy haul of his fellow Scotsman. But the success will have to continue.

"We're almost there as far as pre-season goes," Moyes said. "I think we'd like to have a bit more continuity than what we've had. We've had one or two players dropping in and out because of injury, but the players have been great."

Apart from Wayne Rooney, perhaps. Frustrated at his playing time last season, the 27-year-old Rooney asked Ferguson towards the end of the season to be allowed to leave the 20-time English champions. The striker, though, is being denied a move to rivals Chelsea, with United stating that he won't be sold.

"You don't need to convince anybody to play for Manchester United," was Moyes' latest stance on Rooney's future this week.

There is only a slim chance of Rooney facing Wigan, relegated to the second tier after winning the FA Cup, with United disclosing he has a shoulder injury after missing the tour matches with hamstring troubles.

Moyes will lead out the champions at Wembley knowing United are not yet seen as his team. The quest to become David Moyes, the highly successful Manchester United manager, rather than simply the man who had the unenviable task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson starts tonight.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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