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Ferguson has provided a source of inspiration to Moyes as he has held out for a job where the resources match his ambitions.

“I look upon Sir Alex, I suppose, as a role model, but mainly I look at him and wonder, `How can you have stayed in this job so long?’” Moyes has said.

The simple task for Ferguson’s successor, according to former United captain Gary Neville, is to “play attractive football, bring young players through and win a championship.”

As such, Neville believes the potential hiring of Moyes as United’s 20th manager “makes sense.”

“They want someone to respect the history and tradition of the club, someone who is there for the long term,” Neville said. “The club does not go for quick-fixes.”

But Wall Street investors could be spooked by the appointment of Moyes, whose modest achievements contrast with those of Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who was linked with the United job but has long been a lightning rod for controversy.

News of Ferguson’s retirement alone was greeted by United shares dropping more than 5 percent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, but the losses were clawed back quickly. The shares closed at $18.44, down 1.8 percent.

Before United was listed on the NYSE last year, the club warned that Ferguson’s successor “may not be as successful as our current manager” and could “adversely affect our ability to attract and retain coaches and players.”

It won’t take long for United to discover if that is the case.

Even before Ferguson announced his retirement plans, striker Wayne Rooney told the manager in recent weeks that he wanted to seek a fresh challenge away from the club, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm British media reports because he was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

If the 27-year-old Rooney was to stay at United he is likely to be reunited with Moyes for the first time since his acrimonious departure from Everton in 2004.

Rooney’s United future has been clouded in uncertainty since Robin van Persie was signed from Arsenal last year, and he was left out of the starting lineup for the second leg of the Champions League loss to Real Madrid in March.

But with two years remaining on the player’s contract, United issued a statement late Wednesday to stress: “Rooney is not for sale.”

The truth of that statement should begin to become apparent when United begins life without Ferguson with a preseason tour of Asia and Australia in July.