They tell a story at Manchester United about David Moyes's negotiations to become Manchester United's new manager and the fact that there were a couple of people behind the scenes who were slightly taken aback when they heard he had requested the availability of a private jet as part of his contract.

At the time, the club's directors were not completely au fait with the way Moyes liked to work and the frequency with which he planned to fly off to see potential transfer targets or study potential opponents. Sir Alex Ferguson was hardly short of a few air miles himself but one of the more intriguing differences since the change of manager is that, if anything, they reckon Moyes gets about even more.

It is quite a tribute, bearing in mind Ferguson's reputation as a 24-7 workaholic, as Moyes prepares to take United back into the Champions League for the first time since Real Madrid left the previous manager too distraught even to face the cameras.

Yet there is no getting away from the reason why United's first European season sans Ferguson since going out of the Uefa Cup to Hungary's Videoton in 1985 will be particularly interesting is that they now have a manager who, as José Mourinho has helpfully pointed out, has not been involved at this level before, meaning "people can't expect him to be a fish in water".

Sitting in the Europa Suite at Old Trafford, surrounded by pictures of some of United's great European nights, Moyes talked about Everton's big chance, in 2005, when they went out of the Champions League qualifiers against Villarreal and Pierluigi Collina's refereeing went into Evertonian infamy. Moyes even reminisced about his old days at Celtic and his brief excursions three decades ago "in the old European Cup", namely a two-legged win against Ajax and then a defeat against Juventus in Turin. "Hey, I've been around," Moyes pointed out. Ultimately, however, it always came back to the fact that this is his first proper stab at the Champions League.

Bayer Leverkusen are potentially difficult opponents, too, with four wins in their first five Bundesliga fixtures. They have a new manager in the former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, and United have harrowing memories of facing the team from North Rhine-Westphalia, bearing in mind the 2002 semi-final and a game made infamous for Roy Keane's revelation that one of his team-mates was trembling in the lineup. "He was afraid," to dust off the relevant quote from Keane's autobiography. "Played for his country, won championships, big star, fucking afraid of taking the big step up."

Moyes might have a few butterflies of his own right now but he is a sturdy character and the clear impression is that he can barely wait to take the next step up. The only worry he expressed was that United have not scored a goal from open play in their past three matches. "It is a little bit of a concern," he said.

But he can be reassured by the fact that, even if he is new to this competition himself, United are anything but inexperienced as a club. The man sitting to his right at Monday's press conference, Rio Ferdinand, could reflect on 108 European games. Ryan Giggs has 152 and there are five other United players with 60 or more appearances even if one of them, Nani, is suspended on this occasion because of his red card against Madrid.

Ferdinand often talks about the rush of adrenaline from hearing the Champions League anthem and there was an element of boyishness about the way Moyes spoke about it, too. "I'm really looking forward to the Champions League. I know a lot about it. I've watched plenty of games. I've been there before with Everton when we played Villarreal but we didn't quite make the group stages. But this is something different."

Above all, there was the sense of someone comfortable in his own skin. "I'm now managing a club which is used to getting close to the final stages. I tried with Everton and now I have another route with Man United I am going to do everything I possibly can to win it."

This is not the first time Moyes has, unprompted, talked about ending his first season in his new job at the Estádio da Luz, Lisbon, lifting the trophy his predecessor cherished the most. It does, however, go against Mourinho's slightly mischievous analysis – classic Mourinho: both defending and belittling one of his rivals in the same sentence – whereas others might have a reasonable case for suspecting that, if United were seriously going to challenge Bayern Munich, Barcelona et al, they probably needed to do more in the transfer window.

However highly Moyes rates Marouane Fellaini, United still look fairly impoverished in the central midfield places when the champions, Bayern Munich, have Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Javi Martínez, Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcântara, Xherdan Shaqiri and the newly positioned Philipp Lahm. United, in fairness, are not alone there.

For now, the Premier League champions, with a fairly undistinguished record of three wins and four defeats from their past nine games against European opposition at Old Trafford, should be more occupied with the team that finished third in last season's Bundesliga, albeit 26 points behind Bayern.