It was the lunch date that potentially changed the course of Manchester United history. In December 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson headed to New York to meet Pep Guardiola as the Spanish coach was deciding his next career move.
It is presumed Sir Alex made his pitch regarding the Old Trafford succession, but his prime target was already preparing to join Bayern Munich.
Guardiola was non-committal as to whether he spurned any advances. “I didn’t understand him so maybe that’s why I do not know if I had an offer or not,” said Guardiola. “He invited me to a super restaurant and we had a good time and when he spoke I had a few problems understanding him. It was friendly dinner. Like always, with me he was nice and we spent a good time together.”
It seems whatever corner David Moyes turns he finds himself confronted with an unfavourable point of comparison. As if his predecessor at Manchester United or successor at Everton were not enough, now those who were considered attractive alternatives to replace Ferguson are shadowing him.
During his impressive multi-lingual performance at the Bayern hotel just outside Manchester Guardiola offered support to his beleaguered rival but was forceful in his defence of the legacy Ferguson left behind. “How can Sir Alex have had a bad influence on this club? It is the opposite,” he said. “It is the best club in England because of him. Before that it was Liverpool. It is quite impossible for me to say what has happened.
“I know that maybe they have not had a good season in the league but I see Giggs, Rooney, Vidic, Welbeck and Chicharito (Hernández), all great players. I know these players and I do not know why they have not played well because I am not here, but in one game, they can beat us. That is the truth.
“…Manchester United, one of the most important clubs in the world and the regard of the current situation if you look at the last 10 years of Sir Alex they have always had good players.
“What has happened to David Moyes can happen to me tomorrow. I was with a big club with big coaches and we did not win. I know how hard it is. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues. Manchester United decided to take David and decisions of Manchester United are always right. He made a good job at Everton and he can do it but sometimes you need a little more time.”
Amid the sympathy and the charm there was a sense of reality when asked about the criticism of United. “At a big club that happens,” he said. “It happened with Bayern Munich too. They won everything last year and we try to maintain that level. It’s normal. Here, in Spain, in Italy you have to win. Football is special. Sometimes it is difficult to understand.
“At the big clubs when you don’t win you are in trouble, no matter what you did in the past. You always have to look forward and win games. In the last 15 years, United dominated the Premier League and went to many finals.”