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Interview: John Curtis looks ahead to Manchester United's campaign

Sports Mole looks ahead to new Premier League season for Manchester United with their former defender John Curtis.

A new era is underway at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in May and the subsequent appointment of David Moyes.

Someone that played under the previous regime at Manchester United is John Curtis, who is now part of the coaching team at Everton's training base in Connecticut.

With the new Premier League season due to start on Saturday afternoon, Sports Mole caught up with the 34-year-old to discuss the campaign ahead for Moyes, as well as Wayne Rooney and the potential arrival of Marouane Fellaini.

Many people regard United to be the third favourites for the title this season behind Manchester City and Chelsea. Is that something you agree with?
"You're a brave man or woman to write off United at any stage. Obviously, there has been a massive change at the club. Hopefully, because the move has been on the cards for a while, the transition will have been smooth. It should have been planned and everybody should know their role.

"But Sir Alex Ferguson is a huge figure and it is going to be difficult for David Moyes to work in his shadow. Anybody who works there - no disrespect to David Moyes because he is a fantastic manager - but in comparison to Ferguson anyone would be in the shadows. They are going to be right up there. Whether they can win the title, I hope so, but we will just have to wait and see."

From your experience of Everton, what changes, if any, do you expect Moyes to make at Old Trafford?
"You could see the way that he had Everton running as a club. He was there a long time and his fingerprints are all over the place. He has helped to build what they have at Everton. You would think that because he has been chosen by Ferguson, the similarities between the two are there and there won't be too much of a culture shock for anybody in the change of manager. Continuity is key and Moyes will realise that.

Manchester United manager David Moyes on the touchline during the Community Shield match against Wigan on August 11, 2013© Getty Images

"If you look at what Ferguson did and why he was so successful for so long, he recognised what his strengths were and he also recognised where his weaknesses were. He got the very best people in to work with him. If David Moyes can do the same thing - be the figurehead and recruit the right people in - whether they be English or foreign and utilise them for the best of the team, that is important. Moyes did a similar thing at Everton if you look at them structurally. It was certainly the best that he could get with the financial constraints."

As well as taking his own staff with him, Moyes has also appointed Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville to his coaching team. How important will they be to him?
"Those guys are both hugely experienced and are Manchester United through and through, even though Phil has spent a bit of time at Everton. They know the club inside out and they can advise Moyes on certain things. The only downside will be that at the moment they are a little inexperienced as coaches when it comes to working at a professional club. Having said that, they are going to have instant respect from whoever they work with because of what they have achieved.

"They are both great people. They are not flash and have the qualities that a coach needs in that they have got a lot of humility. Even though they are stars in their own right, they are not like that as people. They have the potential to be great coaches. It's a good thing [that they are involved].

"He has taken his main core of people as well and Steve Round will be key. Moyes was very hands on when it came to coaching, whereas Ferguson never was. Moyes did lots of his own stuff, but Ferguson wasn't a coach. In the six years that I was there, I don't ever remember him running a session. Whether Moyes will step back now and let Round, Giggsy and Phil Neville do the sessions remains to be seen. That is what the players would be familiar with."

The Wayne Rooney situation has dominated the headlines for most of the summer. Do you think that he could have a future at the club or is it best for all concerned if he is sold?
"It is not a Luis Suarez situation, is it? It has been handled a lot better than that has. The issue between Rooney and Moyes has probably been blown out of all proportion. Both of them should be able to work with each other and have a fine working relationship. From Moyes's perspective, he has got one of the best players in the world and he is going to want to utilise him. Manchester United have got a very marketable player and they wouldn't want to lose him from that angle. Who do you replace him with? Where would he go? It's a tough one.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates the winning goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United on December 9, 2012© Getty Images

"Ferguson would never have sold one of his best players to a Premier League rival. There is a chance that it would have come back to haunt him, so he would have only allowed him to move abroad. That seems to be Rooney's only way out - moving countries. Whether he is suited to that as a character, I'm not sure. The perception is that it is not something that he would be keen on. It would be fantastic for him in terms of polishing him off, both as a player and person perhaps."

How do you rate the strength of the squad overall? On paper at least it doesn't appear to be as strong as previous United sides.
"It is still a strong team, obviously. It has to be to win the Premier League. If you look a their main competitors last season - Liverpool were in transition, Arsenal were trying to rebuild, Chelsea had a dip and Manchester City were struggling to cope with the pressure of being champions. It's always easier to win it then to retain it. That helped United greatly.

"It's very difficult to compare previous teams because football has changed so much. The only way that you can measure it is by the number of competitions that they win. They haven't won the European Cup or back to back titles yet, but they might this season."

Someone that has been heavily linked with signing for United is Everton's Marouane Fellaini. Would he be a good addition?
"He is a very good player and he would certainly give any team that he played for an option. He is so good in the air and at bringing the ball down. He would add another dimension to any team. Perhaps towards the end of last season Everton were a little one-dimensional in the way that they played and didn't have many other options.

Marouane Fellaini in action for Everton during pre-season.© Getty Images

"If you put him in a team that already has attacking options, he would certainly add to it. Any team that Fellaini plays for, he is going to benefit them. Someone that can bring a different dimension is something that you need in tight games. If you're playing against a Liverpool or an Arsenal, someone like Fellaini can make the difference in a different way to Rooney or Robin van Persie."

United's first five matches look extremely tricky. Having said that, does it give Moyes the perfect chance to win over any doubters?
"Manchester United as a club should be patient with him because they recognised that it worked so well with Ferguson. They know it works. I hope the fans feel the same way and don't demand too much. He has a decent squad and they should be competitive from the very start. It's a really good chance for him to win some people over, but on the flip side, losing to rivals like Liverpool and City would be tough to take."

What, in your opinion, would represent a successful first season in charge for Moyes?
"Success at Manchester United under Ferguson was doubles and trebles. Who decides what is successful? Moyes or the fans? I would argue that if he can challenge with the top two or three and have a decent run in the Champions League, that would be a success given the upheaval at the club. If he can win either of those, that is a huge success. It's difficult to measure because nobody knows what Moyes's idea of success would be. When you think about the FA Cup and League Cup, they have fallen down the pecking order. It is all about the Premier League and Champions League these days."

You mentioned the Champions League there - Moyes has very little experience of that competition and as Ferguson showed during the early to mid 1990s, it is not an easy tournament to adapt to.
"What Moyes will benefit from is the fact that his players know how to play in that competition - Ferguson's early teams didn't. United have been doing it for years - I can't even remember the last time that they didn't qualify for the Champions League. Every year they've been in it and that helps boost the experience of the squad. It won't be an issue for Moyes because of that, even though he has limited experience himself."

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