“Manchester United hoisted me to the heavens, not once but twice,” wrote Wilf in his autobiography, Man and Babe. “First they bestowed on me the pure, unadulterated joy of being a young Red Devil on the threshold of a football career alongside the best bunch of lads who ever drew breath; then they did me the supreme honour of choosing me to succeed the incomparable Matt Busby.”
Football readily supplies some of life’s epic highs but it can also kick you in the teeth. Ultimately Wilf’s dreams as a player and manager at Old Trafford were left in tatters. He played in the same youth teams as Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards among Matt Busby’s Babes. He turned pro but his career was cut short when he broke his leg in a Reserves match against Stoke in December 1959.
Having pursued a career in coaching, he was named United team manager at the age of 31, succeeding Matt Busby in summer 1969. And yet once again luck eluded him. United were defeated in three two-legged semi-finals – against Manchester City and Aston Villa in consecutive League Cup campaigns and Leeds in the FA Cup – before being dismissed in December 1970. The Reds also lost an FA Cup third/fourth-place play-off.
Yet while the enormity of the job of replacing such a pivotal figure in Manchester United's history mirrors Moyes' task, the circumstances undoubtedly differ in 2013 compared to