Unless you've been under a rock and missed it, the big news in world soccer over the past week was the retirement announcement of legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the naming of his successor, Everton's David Moyes. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard has played for both Ferguson (from 2003 to '06) and Moyes (from '06 to now), and when I spoke to Howard over the weekend he called Moyes "a mountain of a man" and said he will succeed at United when he steps into Ferguson's very big shoes.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for David Moyes. I'm so pleased for him," Howard said. "People like to say [Moyes and Ferguson] are carbon copies, but they're not. They have a similar Scottish background, and that fiery Scottish blood, that's all there. But in general terms they're each their own individual person."
Moyes has regularly outperformed Everton's expectations and transfer-market spending, and while he didn't win a trophy in his 10 seasons there, Howard doesn't think that should be a problem for Moyes at United.
"The manager has done an incredible job at Everton," he said. "Everton hasn't won any trophies in the last 10 years because, quite frankly, we go into competitions as underdogs and you have to play top football over a long period of time to win the trophy. We've been very close very often, and he's put us in the position to win silverware. We just haven't been able to do that."
As for the huge global expectations that come with managing Manchester United, Howard said, "David Moyes is well-prepared for that. He has not only the experience but also the potential to win trophies. And that's what he's going to go there and do."
Over the years, Moyes has been willing to put his faith in U.S. players, including Howard, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride. So I asked Howard if he thinks we might see more Americans heading to Manchester United now.
"The fact he likes the American soccer player and our attitude and all the things we bring to the table, I'd imagine if there's a player good enough to play at Man United he wouldn't be overlooked," Howard said. "But it's more complicated than just, 'David Moyes goes to Manchester United, therefore more Americans will follow.'"
One trait that Howard said Moyes and Ferguson most definitely share is their unwillingness to let a player coast. Howard told the story of his first high-profile game with Manchester United, the 2003 Community Shield, which United won on penalties against Arsenal. In the first half, Arsenal's Thierry Henry scored on a wicked free kick.
"I thought it was a good free kick, thought my wall was fine," Howard said. "But Ferguson didn't think the wall was set up correctly, and he let me know about it 45 minutes after my first game. He never let anybody off the hook."
Moyes is just as unwilling to compromise, Howard said.
"I've been here seven years, and I can honestly tell you every day I go out to training I still have nerves when I get in front of Moyes," he explained. "If a bad goal goes in in training, he'll have a go at me and say something. There's pressure even now, and I've played hundreds of games for him."
Howard has had another solid season at Everton, which will end up finishing sixth in the Premier League and would clinch its highest season point total during Howard's seven-year tenure (66) if the Toffees can beat Chelsea on Sunday. Whoever ends up replacing Moyes at Everton -- one of the favorites is Wigan's Roberto Martínez -- Howard thinks Moyes has left an infrastructure in place for the club to continue doing well.
From a personal perspective, Howard is balancing his happiness for Moyes with the sadness that he's leaving Everton.
"I love his character and loved playing for him and the belief he had in me as a player," Howard said. "I'll miss him dearly."
? There's still a good chance that Robbie Rogers will break new ground and play as an openly gay athlete in MLS before Jason Collins does in the NBA -- but this is a big test for MLS' single-entity rules. Even though Rogers is not under contract with MLS, his MLS rights are held by Chicago. Rogers wants to play only for Los Angeles and be close to his family, but to do that L.A. would have to work out a deal with Chicago. L.A. president Chris Klein tells me the Galaxy is interested in Rogers, but he added that the ball is in Chicago's court. The question is how hard a bargain Chicago will make. If they can't come to a deal, commissioner Don Garber will have an issue on his hands. MLS can't afford the PR hit that would come if Rogers wants to play in the league but doesn't end up doing so.
? After showing initial interest, Garber has said the league won't be adopting goal-line technology anytime soon due to the expense of the systems, and he argued goal-line technology would only be needed in a "handful of moments." But we're clearly seeing that it's more than a handful. MLS had two situations where the ball appeared to cross the line Wednesday night, and goals were not allowed to New York's Eric Alexander and D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario. The same thing happened in Aston Villa-Chelsea on Saturday. A Premier League official told me there have been about 30 goal-line situations like that this season, which is more than a handful -- and a big reason the Premier League is investing in the technology starting in August.
? You may have seen reports this week that AS Monaco is in the running to land Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao in a big-money transfer from Atlético Madrid and asked: How could that happen? Well, here's how: Monaco has been playing in the French second division but clinched a return to the top flight over the weekend. Monaco is now owned by a Russian billionaire, Dmitri Rybolovlev, who's intent on becoming the next PSG in the French league. It helps that foreign players don't have to pay any taxes in Monaco, but now the French league may demand that Monaco pay a big one-time luxury tax of as much as $250 million to make up for it. Keep an eye on this developing story.
? Houston has been Kansas City's boogeyman team the last two seasons in the playoffs, but K.C. got a much-needed boost in this budding rivalry by ending Houston's MLS-record 36-game home unbeaten streak in all competitions in Sunday's 1-0 win. K.C.'s Aurélien Collin may be no fun to play against, but he's the kind of guy you want on your team. Big credit to Houston for the streak, though, which lasted almost two full years.
? The most striking trend of the MLS weekend was the youth of the players who were scoring goals, including New England's Diego Fagundez (18), Vancouver's Russell Teibert (20), Los Angeles' Gyasi Zardes (21), Vancouver's Darren Mattocks (22), Philadelphia's Jack McInerney (20) and Colorado's Dillon Powers (22). McInerney now leads the league with seven goals this season. While there are legitimate concerns that the star power in MLS has gone down since last season, that also may mean more youngsters are getting the chance to shine, which isn't a bad thing at all.
? Strange scheduling means New York has played 13 league games so far, while three teams (Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle) have only played nine. All of which is to say that total points is less meaningful right now than points per game. Example: New York is second in the league in points but sixth in PPG, while Montreal is fifth in points but second in PPG. For New York to say it's in first place in the East is technically correct, but I'd rather be in Montreal's position.
? For me, there's a three-way race for most improved player in MLS between Portland's Rodney Wallace, Philly's McInerney and Houston's Kofi Sarkodie.
? Portland's rise under coach Caleb Porter is starting to hit critical mass. Not only are the Timbers winning games, but they're a ton of fun to watch.
? D.C. United is terrible right now with a league-worst four points in 10 games and a seven-game losing streak. But Columbus isn't much better lately, with just two wins in its last nine games -- both of which came against D.C. United.
? Speaking of Columbus, any chance Frankie Hejduk gets the open local TV analyst gig now that Duncan Oughton is leaving to be an assistant at Toronto FC?
? Seattle is playing like Seattle again, and a big reason is Mauro Rosales, who's finally starting to deserve the big pay raise he got before last season.
? If Chicago's Patrick Nyarko stays as dangerous as he was up front on Saturday, Sherjill MacDonald might be sitting for a while.
? As bad as Philly goalkeeper Zac MacMath was last week, he was terrific in the Union's win against Chicago.