The Everton manager is a sensible option rather than an adventurous one – hiring a man with limited European experience is a risk. José Mourinho could have been special
Manchester United's appointment of David Moyes as their new manager signals a clear choice of direction: rather than going down the route of choosing one of the household names of world football, they have settled for a boss whose outlook on football and management was shaped by the principles of the man he succeeds.
While news of the successor has failed to excite certain sections of the media and United supporters, there's no question that the club will find itself in safe hands under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson's fellow Scot. The departing Everton manager is a sensible option rather than an adventurous one. Among other aspects of keeping in line with United tradition, fans can rest assured that the club's fine academy will continue to enjoy support from the manager, who is not one to buy success at the expense of giving youth a chance – which perhaps gave him the edge over those managers who like their big signings.
Conversely, whether Moyes is the right man to mastermind the plan to close the gap to leading European clubs such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich remains an open question. Just like their "noisy neighbours", United have failed to make an impact in the Champions League over the past two seasons. And whereas certain rivals on the continent have developed their game remarkably over the past few years, United have gradually ceased to be the point of reference in shaping the flexible and fluid kind of football required to win European trophies.
Moyes's big challenge will be to reinvent himself from a manager whose team tends to play direct football and often relies on others' mistakes to one which can force the pace, dominate the opposition and control a game. This style may just have been down to the circumstances at Everton and he'll take a different approach with United; we'll find out soon enough.
For the moment United hang on to their status as a dominant force in world football due to the sheer magnitude of the club and their relatively recent European glories, but another one or two seasons without Champions League silverware is likely to be critical for a club whose huge global fan base hungers for more than just domestic glory and whose business model is dependent on continued success. So you could say it's a big risk to take a manager with extremely limited European experience.
As much as it's refreshing that United have gone against the tide by opting for a rather conservative solution and made a formidable statement of support by offering Moyes a six-year contract, I find it hard to believe that the temptation of going for the tried and tested option would not have crossed the minds of the Old Trafford hierarchy.
Manchester United Football Club is a worldwide institution. If the entire population of this planet were passed a questionnaire in which they had to write down the first football club that sprung to mind, chances are the majority would scribble down the name of the Premier League champions. Time may teach us that Moyes turns out perfectly capable of handling the pressures, the expectations and the responsibilities that come with being in charge of such a club, but make no mistake: repeatedly punching above your weight with a mid-table Premier League side does not automatically translate into success with one of the giants. Effectively conducting a footballing powerhouse appears to be an art very few are capable of mastering.
For that reason, the more obvious approach would have been to turn to someone with a proven track record of successfully leading a football club of the same scale. And the obvious candidate that springs to mind would be José Mourinho – if indeed there was a genuine chance to hire him. Mourinho'sapparent inability to stay at the same club for more than three years is often cited as the reason why he would be the wrong man for this particular task. However, if we look beyond exceptions such as Ferguson and Arsène Wenger – whose "dynasties" were cemented by success from an era in which the creation of such legacy periods was still possible – three years at European giants such as Real Madrid and Chelsea is not bad going. Even model clubs such as Bayern Munich and Juventus have a relatively high turnover of managers – and Pep Guardiola's defining spell at Barcelona lasted just one year longer than Mourinho's current stint at Real Madrid.
Mourinho has won silverware everywhere he has coached; he's the closest you can get to a guarantee of success, which raises the hypothetical question whether a series of successful years under the leadership of the Portuguese, even if he then moved on, would have been such a bad thing. After all, as much as United should be lauded for their intentions, there's no guarantee that the Moyes epoch will last anywhere near into the next decade.
He demands a lot from his immediate environment; his methods are not always straight out of the "how to be the perfect gentleman" manual – just as his modus operandi towards the media, referees and opponents are not to everyone's taste. But he is a winner and secretly I'm quite sure Sir Alex would see the Real manager as the one most similar to a younger version of himself.
For what United would potentially risk in terms of the odd publicity backlash, the gains from having Mourinho in charge would be felt on many levels. The Portuguese is still the one manager that most top-level players want to play for, the one that attracts headlines, the one that opposing managers hate to come up against, the one that figures out tactical schemes to outsmart opponents. In short, he's still the Special One – and it will take someone special indeed to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive, formerly the chief executive and sporting director at Monaco. He has previously worked as a scout for Grasshopper, Watford, Bayer Leverkusen, Hannover and Zenit St Petersburg and as sporting director for Fredrikstad FK