By STEVE DOUGLAS
2014-04-01 03:01 AM
MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- As David Moyes lurches from one setback to another in his troubled first season at Old Trafford, Manchester United's hierarchy may well be casting envious glances at Bayern Munich to discover just how smooth managerial transition can be.
Two of the most celebrated clubs in European football were forced to begin new eras last summer after Alex Ferguson and Jupp Heynckes opted to end their coaching careers and head into retirement.
While Bayern went with one of the safest pair of hands around in Pep Guardiola, who turned Barcelona into the best team in the world in a trophy-laden four-year spell, United took a gamble and hired Moyes despite his limited experience of top-level football.
Eight months on, perhaps unsurprisingly it is Bayern which has managed change the better.
The two teams are heading in opposite directions as they meet for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday, with Bayern having just retained the German title in record-breaking style and tipped by many to retain its Champions League trophy. Moyes, meanwhile, is hanging onto his job after a first season at the soon-to-be-deposed English champion that has been nothing short of disastrous.
"They are probably the side most people have looked to recently," Moyes said Monday, when asked for his opinion on the Bayern side of Guardiola. "He has had a year to get ready for the Bayern job and has done incredibly well with them."
To be more precise, Guardiola agreed in January last year to replace Heynckes the following summer. He was living in New York at the time, spending a year away from football after a stressful spell at the Camp Nou when he was approached by Bayern.
In many respects, the inheritance was made easier for Guardiola. The majority of Bayern's players were in their prime -- Arjen Robben was 29, Franck Ribery was 30 and Bastian Schweinsteiger was 29, for example -- and he took over a squad full of talented, technical players who would have little trouble slipping into the tiki-taka approach Guardiola favors.
But the Spaniard was also decisive in his sole incursion into the transfer market in signing Thiago Alcantra -- reportedly from under the nose of United, no less -- and his insistence on high standards means Bayern's level hasn't dropped. In fact, the evidence suggests things are getting even better
The team clinched the Bundesliga title last week in record time and the team is unbeaten in the league in 28 games. The team also motors on in Europe, opening the season by winning the UEFA Super Cup and then marching to the last eight of the Champions League without losing a competitive match.
"Nobody has the secrets for eternal success," Guardiola said Monday, but he and Jose Mourinho appear to offer the best guarantees to success in football.
"You have to say that when Pep took over at Bayern, we were in great shape and we had had a fantastic season before that," said Schweinsteiger, who is surprised at the fall from grace of United.
"It's difficult to say when you are outside the club . (but) Man United should be one of the top four teams in England all the time."
United is nowhere near that.
Succeeding Ferguson after his trophy-laden 27 years in charge was described by many as the impossible job and it is proved to be exactly that for Moyes, with United seventh in the Premier League and left with the Champions League as its only chance of silverware this season.
His style is less attacking than Ferguson's and the team's lack of movement and dynamism going forward has been a source of frustration for fans. Moyes is set to be given another season but many wonder whether he is the right man for the rebuilding job at Old Trafford.
"Sometimes you need a little more time," Guardiola said. "The decisions Manchester United take are always right."
Guardiola revealed Monday that he was invited to dinner by Ferguson during his time in New York.
"My English is not so good so when Sir Alex spoke quickly, I didn't understand him," Guardiola said, "so maybe I didn't understand if I received an offer (to take over at United) or not."
Guardiola was joking. But after what has happened this season, United supporters likely wish the Spaniard had been the "Chosen One" rather than Moyes.