At the end of a week in which he discharged his final responsibilities at Goodison Park while getting his first taste of life at Old Trafford, David Moyes will settle down to Saturday evening's all-German Champions League final in the knowledge that he is watching the competition by which his stewardship of Manchester United will be judged.
"Moyes will be given time" is the refrain, and he will not be expected to win it next season. But he will be aware that the careers of his two great predecessors, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, were defined by their relationship with the competition, the former because he faced down the Football Association to enter and win it, the latter because not only did he go one better than Busby but his vision of football's potential for beauty was ignited when, as an 18-year-old, he stood among 137,000 spectators at Hampden Park to watch Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas score seven goals between them in the classic 1960 final.
It will be 45 years ago next Wednesday that Busby's United blazed a trail by becoming the first English team to win the trophy. Their victory was achieved under the Wembley floodlights in a match that established once and for all the image of a club whose successes were achieved with style and drama. The legacy of that night is the expectation – burdensome to some, inspiring to others – that the successors to Busby and his players will achieve their victories with a similar panache.
Unlike Moyes, Busby had nothing much to live up to, no proud tradition to uphold, when he arrived in 1945, aged 36. United were not known for playing exciting or even consistently successful football. "It started with Matt," Paddy Crerand, the midfield fulcrum of that first European Cup-winning side, said this week. "He brought a different approach." Noted for a silky touch and perceptive passing during his own playing career, the new manager imbued his players with an attacking philosophy. The experience of triumph and tragedy gave them a unique status and their growing army of supporters became used to the idea that they were following the country's most attractive side.
Crerand remembers the 15-minute coach ride on Saturdays from Davyhulme Park golf club, where Busby's team would have their pre-match meal, to Old Trafford. "People worked five and a half days back then, and we'd see them coming out of the industrial estate and heading for the ground. They wanted entertainment, and you had to entertain them."
Moyes will hardly be unaware of that continuing obligation, or of the ambience described by Ray Wilkins, a distinguished United player under Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson. "The crowd at Old Trafford are behind you all the time," Wilkins said. "When you're going forward, they give you that sense of urgency. That atmosphere at home almost forces you to play fast, flamboyant, attacking football." There will be no shortage of voices ready to remind Moyes of his duty to maintain that tradition, most of all in Europe.
It was on 29 May 1968 that Busby's third and last great team seized their destiny with a display that became a keystone of the club's legend.
They had taken the lead against Benfica early in the second half with a Bobby Charlton header but soon conceded an equaliser. After Alex Stepney averted defeat with a courageous save from Eusebio's point-blank shot, the match went into extra time. A George Best dribble restored United's lead, the teenaged Brian Kidd got the third and Charlton completed the 4-1 victory with his second goal.
For David Sadler, another who picked up a winner's medal that night, there was more than one dimension to the team of Best, Law and Charlton. "When people say that Matt just told us to enjoy ourselves, they're using poetic licence," he said. "We were certainly encouraged to go out and attack, which is something that's deeply etched into the club, but we could play defensively, like any other team. We usually played a 4-4-2 system, although if you looked at the players on the team sheet you might have thought it was a 4-2-4. But in away matches we'd pull players back because we wanted to quieten the home crowd. If you can keep the opposition quiet, the crowd gets nervous and that can be an important factor. And if we achieved that, we had the players to exploit it."
It took another 31 years for the club to recapture the European Cup, this time under Ferguson's guidance.
Once more high drama attended their victory as two goals in stoppage time in the Camp Nou reversed the tide of what had seemed a comfortable win for Bayern Munich, completing United's Treble. Nine years later in Moscow the team again stood on the brink of defeat before John Terry's slip in the penalty shootout presented Ferguson with a second title. On both occasions the win saved him from criticism that would otherwise have been aimed at some strange tactical choices.
A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Barcelona in Rome 12 months later was hardly a disgrace, but a truly abject reverse at the hands of the same opponents at Wembley in 2011 represented a low point of Ferguson's long tenure.
His hopes of using this season's competition to banish that sour memory were dashed by the elimination in the quarter-final against Real Madrid, and the signs of anger and distress he displayed on that night of crushing anti-climax are more easily understood now we know he had already made up his mind to retire at the season's end.
The 2013 final would have been the last match of a great managerial career. Instead of the perfect ending, he has engineered what appears to be the perfect handover to a fellow Scot whom he views as the most suitable man to maintain the traditions, the values and the priorities established by Busby.
Moyes will go on holiday next week knowing that no one expects him to match Ferguson's quarter-century at the helm. But then no one expected Ferguson to outdistance the great Busby in longevity and trophies. The only certainty is that the new man will be measured by his ascent to the Europe summit.
"He'll be given time," everyone says. But, unlike his predecessors, he is not taking over a club in need of urgent attention. The platform is already there, which makes the challenge both easier and even more daunting.
"It's such a colossal job that you actually feel as though nobody can do it and nobody should be expected to do it," Sadler said. "You might just as well tell yourself, 'It's impossible to follow that, so let's just see how it goes.'" But Saturday's match will put the coming challenge in its clearest, truest perspective.
The unexpected star of the 1968 final was John Aston, then a 20-year-old winger. "I didn't realise its significance at the time," he said this week.
"I was playing with men who'd been through the Munich disaster, but I'd been only 10 years old when that happened. It wasn't until I was maybe 40 that I understood exactly how much it meant. The European Cup was the Holy Grail." It is still, more than ever. Something to think about on the Florida beach, perhaps.